Roller coasters may look dangerous as their trains plummet down hills or zip through loops, but they have a good safety record, according to government and industry statistics. Based on statistics from 2007, the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions says that your chance of being killed on any theme park ride, including a roller coaster, is only one in 750 million. This safety is supported by maintenance policies, government overnight and park rules.
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Theme parks inspect their roller coasters every day as a safety precaution. Mechanics begin work early, inspecting the coaster trains, lubricating them and performing any needed adjustments or repairs, CoasterQuest.com explains. The tracks are visually inspected for any obstructions or abnormalities, and wooden roller coaster tracks are sometimes lubricated. Park personnel then do a test ride on the coaster before it opens to the public for the day.
Amusement parks that shut down for park of the season perform winter maintenance on their roller coasters to keep them safe. Theme parks that are open year-round shut down their roller coasters periodically for major maintenance. The coaster trains are removed from the tracks and taken into a maintenance facility for disassembling and inspection, according to CoasterQuest.com. Mechanics perform any needed work. The trains are in safe condition for patrons by the time the park or ride reopens.
Most states take safety precautions to protect the general public from amusement park ride hazards, including dangerous roller coasters. Forty-three of the 50 states regulate theme parks within their boundaries, according to the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions. Two of the seven unregulated states have no theme parks. State standards generally include regular ride inspections. The federal government has no agency to regulate or inspect roller coasters.
Theme parks post rules to remind patrons how to ride roller coasters safely. Typical precautions include height and weight limits, keeping hands inside the coaster train and putting on any restraints, like lap bars or seat belts. Many roller coasters are not suitable for people with medical issues like back or neck problems, and this information is posted at the ride and usually noted in the park's brochure.
New roller coasters are often much taller than their older counterparts, perform more manoeuvres or incorporate more inversions. Two 2006 studies, performed by the American Association of Neurological Scientists and Exponent Failure Analysis Associates, showed that the resulting g-forces have not increased for three decades and that properly-operating roller coasters pose no special injury risks.
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- CoasterQuest.com; Daily Amusement Ride Care; Walt Reiss
- CoasterQuest.com; Roller Coaster Winter Rehabilitation; Walt Reiss
- ThemedAttractions.com; A Short History of Roller Coasters;
- International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions; Amusement Ride Safety Regulations and Standards
- Six Flags; Roller Coasters, Theme Parks Extraordinarily Safe, According to Two Comprehensive, Scientific Studies; June 2006
- VIA; Roller Coaster Safety; Richard O'Brien; July 2002