Amusement parks and carnivals are a fun attraction, especially for children. The rides, the games, the shows – all are developed to entertain and amaze. However, these places for fun and revelry can also pose serious dangers.
In Illinois, all amusement parks and rides that are open to the public must be inspected and obtain a permit before the first operation, and every year thereafter.
The Illinois Department of Labor (IDOL) is responsible for these inspections, and inspects about 5,000 rides every year. The fine for operating an amusement ride that is open to the public without a current Illinois permit is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor with fines up to $2500.
Facilities that require inspection include:
- Carnival rides
- Ride simulators
- Ski lifts
- Rope tows
- Mechanical bulls
- Go-kart tracks
- Haunted houses.
The Illinois Carnival and Amusement Ride Safety Act sets out the rules, requirements, and penalties for amusement ride safety. The Illinois Department of Labor released a May 2010 press release on safety guidelines for amusement ride customers and parents:
- Check for a current IDOL permit sticker
- Read and obey safety rules about height, weight, and age
- Listen to the ride operator and follow instructions
- Do not run around the rides
- Always use safety equipment
- Watch extremities – arms and legs inside ride
- Talk to your children about the ride so they know what to expect
- Never force a child to go on a ride
- Stay seated until instructed
- Immediately report unsafe conditions or rides without a current IDOL permit to police and IDOL at 217.782.9347
The safest way for a child to ride an amusement park ride is in a seated position with feet on floor, butt on seat, and holding on with both hands. If your child is too small to reach all of these bracing points, they should not ride.
Amusement rides are exciting and fun with the high speeds, climbing hills, and breath-catching drops, but they can also result in dangerous and sometimes deadly accidents. Children are particularly susceptible to injuries at amusement parks. Half of all amusement ride accidents and three-quarters of accidents where a rider is ejected or falls from a ride involve toddlers, preschoolers, and elementary school-age children. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reports that 2/3 of all ride-related injuries involve children.
Action is required by amusement ride designers, ride operators and parents. Designers should design in additional safety precautions especially on rides that are geared towards young children, taking into account their size and whether they should be allowed to ride alone.
Maintaining safe behavior for kids
Ride operators should ensure that children have proper supervision and should not run the ride if they cannot maintain safe behavior. And, parents need to provide better supervision, follow safety instructions, and decide which rides their children should ride. It can be helpful to watch the ride with your children before they ride so they know what to expect and can better decide if they want to ride and whether you are comfortable with them riding. When teaching your child how to be a safe rider, remember the 3 R’s of ride safety – Rides, Rules, and Rewards.
- Rides – teach your children how rides work and what to expect, and how to follow the safety procedures
- Rules – teach your children the rules they have to follow on every ride and how to sit
- Rewards – it is important to reinforce good behavior through praise, point systems, and earning the privilege to try new rides.
It is important to reinforce good behavior and correct unsafe behavior. Amusement parks should be a fun experience, but not at the detriment to your children’s safety.
Extra safety awareness needed for young children
Most amusement parks offer rides that are safe most of the time, but rides can present additional dangers for small children. Therefore, parents need to be aware of the safety requirements and pay attention so as to make decisions on which rides are safe for their children to ride. It is important to remember that children can become excited or even scared on amusement rides and may not always act responsibly. Therefore, it is important to teach your children how to be safe riders and provide supervision.
Thank you to Health Keil, J.D. for her assistance with this Child Injury Laws entry.