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Pennsylvania Guidelines to Prevent Amusement Park Injuries

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A 2013 study suggested that an average of 12 children per day receive treatment in emergency rooms for amusement park injuries.  Summer 2016 was a particularly dangerous summer for amusement park visitors.  A recent Legal Lookout post highlighted some of the most noted amusement park accidents of 2016. The most newsworthy cases of amusement park injuries included:

  1. A 14-year-old girl who suffered non-life-threatening injuries after falling from The Sky Ride at Six Flags Amusement Park in New York
  2. A 10-year-old boy who died because of neck injuries sustained on a water slide in Kansas
  3. Three Tennessee girls who fell from a Ferris wheel at a county fair
  4. A three-year old boy who fell from a roller coaster in Western Pennsylvania’s Idlewild park.

The accidents lead to updated laws or regulations in most of the states in which the accidents occurred.  Pennsylvania did not alter its state regulations but it did issue specific guidelines for Idlewild.  The state ordered that regulations be met before the park could reopen.  According to Times Leader, the park closed after the toddler fell from the Rollo Coaster ride.  The child suffered non-life threatening injuries.

The state required that the following safety measures be met before the park could reopen for business:

  1. Installing manufacturer-approved secondary passenger restraints, such as seat belts.
  2. Inspection by an engineer to review structural, construction and design requirements
  3. Adoption of a minimum height requirement for new roller coasters
  4. Written description of changes in operator training requirements to reduce the risk of an accident and an auditing function to ensure all operators are trained properly and are adhering to requirements

The specific recommendations were the likely results of findings from a Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s Division of Amusement Rides and Attractions investigation. According to PennLive the agency believes that multiple factors may have contributed to the 2016 amusement park accident. Possible factors included: unsecured riders, no secondary restraints, maintenance and structural conditions, modifications to the original equipment, and a lack of height regulations.

The guidelines were specifically given to Idlewild. However, Pennsylvania state officials recommended that all parks adhere to the guidelines to prevent amusement ride accidents and injuries.

In a recent Time Magazine article, Gary Smith, president of the Child Injury Prevention Alliance and co-author of the 2013 study, stressed the importance of safety inspections and amusement ride guidelines. “Rides that have appropriate safety designs and are inspected regularly are safe to use,” said Smith. “Operators and riders need to follow safety guidelines as well.”

As Smith suggests, riders and parents also need to do their part in preventing amusement park injuries. As published by  Lancaster Online Article, the state Bureau of Ride Safety and amusement park association offers a number of suggestions for parents to keep their kids safe:

  1. Know your child’s capabilities and actively determine if a ride is appropriate for the child
  2. Talk to the child about appropriate behavior while on the ride; this can include buckling the seatbelt and keeping on the restraints and keeping arms and legs within inside the ride
  3. Examine the operator for alertness

It is important that riders follow the park’s safety recommendations and trust their own judgments to avoid amusement park injuries. In the rare instance that an amusement ride accident occurs, riders should seek information regarding their legal options. Individuals involved in a Pennsylvania amusement park accident are urged to contact a Pennsylvania personal injury lawyer to preserve their legal rights.


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