The things that make roller coasters safe

Updated April 17, 2017

Roller coasters are gravity-defying rides that often draw screams from riders. Though it might seem as though you are defying gravity and putting yourself into dangerous conditions, roller coasters are safe. Safety features are designed into roller coasters so even though you might feel as though you are flying in the air, you are just as safe as you would be on the ground.

Height Requirements and Positioning

Roller coasters have height requirements for riders. The safety harnesses and belts built for a roller coaster will only secure a person of a particular size into them. Rides also have positions that riders must maintain during the ride for their safety. This is why an announcement will be made to keep your hands and feet inside and use the safety bars to hold on to during the ride. By placing your hands on these safety bars, you are putting your body into the position for safety on the ride.

Safety Ratchet

The safety ratchet is a chain that pulls the roller coaster up steep inclines, but also prevents it from sliding back. The safety ratchet creates a loud clicking noise as you go up the steep inclines of the ride. Each roller car and chain has its own catch pocket so that each time the car rolls over a pocket these pieces snap together to hold the cars in place in the event the ride is stopped.

Air Brakes

Roller coasters have a brake system that uses compressed air. The majority of air brake systems on modern roller coasters are computer operated, however they will typically have an emergency switch so the roller coaster operator can stop the ride in case of an emergency.

Safety Harnesses

Safety harnesses or belts secure riders into the ride and typically lock into place so the rider cannot get out during the ride. Harnesses secure riders by coming over the shoulders and around the chest and waist. Rides that do not have loops or extensive inclines secure riders with a bar that comes across the waist line.


Technology has changed the way roller coasters operate. Roller coasters are computer-operated, which reduces the risk of human error during operation. Computers are programmed to stop cars when alarm sensors go off on the track, prevent car collisions and maintain the ride at a safe speed.

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About the Author

Shailynn Krow began writing professionally in 2002. She has contributed articles on food, weddings, travel, human resources/management and parenting to numerous online and offline publications. Krow holds a Bachelor of Science in psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles and an Associate of Science in pastry arts from the International Culinary Institute of America.