CLEVELAND - With warm weather spreading across the country and summer right around the corner, millions of Americans are planning trips to amusement parks. Many will head to large, traditional parks like Disney World. But state fairs, county fairs, and local carnivals will also get their share of business.
These attractions all have one goal in mind – to entertain you – but occasionally that entertainment can turn to disaster. According to the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA), there were 1,086 ride-related injuries in the United States in 2009. Sixty-five of those injuries were considered serious. The IAAPA says guests enjoyed 1.7 billion rides that year, which means injuries – particularly serious ones – are extremely rare.
However, the IAAPA statistics include injuries that occurred only on fixed-site amusement rides, such as those found at permanent parks like Disney World and the Six Flags parks. The rides at county fairs and local carnivals can be a little more worrisome.
"I think it's safe to assume that the rides at your local carnival will not be maintained quite as well as the rides you'll find at the larger amusement parks," said personal injury attorney David Miraldi of the Cleveland, Ohio law firm of Miraldi & Barrett, Co. LPA .
Already in 2012, we have seen some injuries involving rides at smaller, temporary amusement parks. Last month, a three-year-old girl fell off a carnival ride at RodeoHouston, an annual Texas event. The family's lawyer says the girl suffered contusions on her face and head, lost consciousness when she hit the ground, and has not been acting the same since the accident. The family says the girl, who was tall enough to ride, was not strapped in properly. RodeoHouston officials say the girl crawled out from under a functioning restraining bar.
This will certainly not be the last amusement ride-related injury we'll hear about this year. Here are some ride safety tips to think about:
• Read the rules – Follow all posted height and age requirements, as well as warnings for those with particular health issues.
• Keep your body parts in – That includes your hands, arms, and legs. Women should consider putting their hair up or wearing a hat.
• Use safety equipment – Shoulder harnesses, lap belts, and lap bars are there to keep you safe.
• Be observant – Don't board a ride if you notice broken parts, signs of poor maintenance, or an inattentive operator.
"Often, it comes down to common sense," says attorney Martin Sweet of legal information website CLEVELANDLAW.TV . "If you have a funny feeling about a ride, it might be a good idea to stay away."
If you've been injured on an amusement park ride and you believe it was not your fault, you should consult a personal injury lawyer.