How to keep your kids safe at amusement parks this summer.
17-year-old Asia Leeshawn Ferguson of Columbia, South Carolina was killed at Six Flags Over Georgia on Saturday. He died after he and another teenager scaled two fences and entered a restricted area. Ferguson was hit by the speeding "Batman the Ride" roller coaster and was decapitated.
Momlogic talked to amusement park safety expert Alan Korn, Director of Public Policy and General Counsel for Safe Kids Worldwide, for his perspective. "This case was particularly surprising because the teen ignored several barriers (like a sign saying "Keep Out") and also scaled fences," he says. "Plus, he ignored the apparent upfront hazards of a roller coaster traveling at fast speed. This is one of those situations where this young adult ignored all reasonable safety precautions. This was not the fault of the amusement park. It's ultimately up to the good judgment of young adults to follow warnings not to behave like this."
But he says even though this incident was caused by poor judgment on the part of a young adult, that doesn't mean parents should throw caution to the wind. The park and the parents have a responsibility to ensure safety, according to Korn. "There are 2-4 deaths and 8,000 injuries per year at amusement parks," he says. "A day at a park should never end in the ER or with a death." He offers parents the following safety tips:
Follow the height and age restrictions on the rides: Most parents don't realize that the numbers on the signs are a minimum requirement, Korn says. If a sign says: "Anyone under 5 feet can't go on" that means you have to be at least 5 feet. But just because you meet the height requirements, you also need to possess the physical and cognitive capabilities to ride these rides. They call them thrill rides for a reason.
Follow your instincts: Watch the ride a little before you put your kid on it, recommends Korn. "You know your kid best," he says. "If they're showing any apprehension or discomfort, go try another ride. Many rides are scary, and require an adult to ride with the child. That is a wonderful rule. If you're on the ride, too, it helps ensure your child won't stand up on the ride, take off his seat belt, dangle his feet over the edge...and you can also provide emotional comfort, as well."
Always use the safety equipment: "The park knows their rides best," Korn says. "If there are machine restraints, use them. These rides are engineered to be very safe, but that doesn't mean accidents don't happen. In a Six Flags park in Texas, a kid's feet were cut off by the ride. But if you behave safely, and follow the height and age instructions, you'll drastically lower your risk of injury."
"In general, amusement parks are very safe," Korn concludes. "But they could always monitor the rides better, train their attendants more, or step up the maintenance. Usually the attendants are kids who are standing in the sun all day. They're on their high school summer vacation, and they're bored and not paying attention." So it's important for parents to be more vigilant than ever. Your kid's safety depends on it.