Theme parks provide fun-filled activities for both kids and adults. A family day spent at a local theme park is a great way to enjoy swimming and water parks, safari adventures, thrilling rides, and great refreshments. Theme parks offer excitement, adventure, and family fun, but they also pose injury risks that parents should know about.
Each year, more than 4,000 children are injured in theme parks on rides and in water parks. Over the last decade, over 95,000 kids under the age of 18 ended up in hospital emergency rooms with injuries sustained in local theme parks across the country. One-third of injuries occurred at established theme parks with permanent locations, while 70 percent of injuries occurred at temporary locations where ride equipment was set up on a temporary basis. Injuries ranged from minor scrapes and bruises to fractures, broken bones, and whiplash. In cases that involved falls, injuries included spinal cord injuries and head trauma. The most frequent injuries were caused by faulty ride restraints and inadequate seat padding that allowed riders to slip out of their seats.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission tracks and records theme park accidents and injuries in the United States. Specialized companies track accidents with amusement accident analysis. Commission records show eight fatalities from theme park accidents between 2001 and 2003, but that number jumped to 52 in 2004. In 2011, the commission recorded 1,204 theme park injuries. In 2017, a ride at the Ohio State Fair made the news when it broke apart and threw two people into the air and 10 people to the ground. This malfunction on a ride called the Fire Ball resulted in one fatality and seven serious injuries. Most of the victims were between the ages of 12 and 18.
Most well-established theme parks offer a safe day of fun and adventure without accidents. Temporary parks are generally not as safe because rides are constructed for a limited time, then taken down. Workers who set up and operate the rides may also be temporary help, rather than full-time employees like those at established theme parks.