Amusement parks are often a vacation destination for families and fun places to spend the summer visiting or working for locals. One would think that with roller coasters and other thrill rides that there would be some government oversight, but that is rarely the case. In fact, there is no federal regulation for any of the nation’s many amusement parks, from those owned by big corporations – think Disney parks, Six Flags parks, and parks owned by Anheuser Busch, like Busch Gardens to smaller, mom-and-pop owned parks. The New York Times reports on the story.
Luke Gibb’s wife, Rachel, is an American. Three years ago, the couple were visiting a Michigan amusement park. It was chilly, and Rachel, wore a scarf while riding on the go-kart ride. The scarf tangled in the axel and snapped Rachel’s windpipe, an accident that led her without higher brain function. Gibbs now drives from the couple’s home in Maidenhead, England to Surrey, where his wife now lives in a long-term care facility.
The accident revealed to Gibbs things that many Americans as well as international travelers may not realize.
Parks have been exempted from federal oversight since the 1980s when park operators lobbied the government to be free from oversight by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. That leaves regulation to the states, and six states have no oversight at all. Those states are Alabama, Mississippi, Wyoming, Montana, Utah, and Nevada.
Beginning in 1999, a senator, Democrat Edward J. Markey, began trying to bring the nation’s amusement parks under federal oversight. However, Disney, along with its competitors, have successfully lobbied against any legislation regarding federal regulation of amusement parks.
The only exception to this are mobile parks like carnivals and state fairs, which are covered under federal oversight.
Even after incidents that made both national and international news, such as a child being decapitated at a water park in 2010 and a woman falling to her death from a Texas roller coaster in 2013, there was no oversight in fixed-site amusement parks.
According to the safety commission, there is roughly a one in 17 million chance of injury at a fixed-site park.
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