Coronavirus Update: To New & Existing Clients Learn More ›

In Aftermath of Child’s Death On Coaster, Illinois Needs Stronger Amusement Ride Standards

Children riding a roller coasterMany parents and citizens of Illinois may be surprised to learn how little scrutiny the state gives the amusement rides that small children ride are allowed to ride on. Although there are product safety standards from everything from strollers to highchairs that are either stationary or are under the control of an adult, the state leaves many of the safety standards of these amusement rides up to the manufacturers discretion.

Illinois Boy Dies On Roller Coaster

Last year, a three-year old boy died after he fell from a roller coaster in Norridge. Although he met the amusement park and roller coaster manufacturers height requirements to ride without an adult, he was able to get free of the restraints and fell from the car and was struck by the roller coaster. The state inspector from Illinois’ Labor Department found that the accident was a “patron error” and that the amusement park and manufacturer was not to blame.

Even though by state standards the amusement park had not committed violations relating to the accident, the parents of the boy did win a civil suit against them for $3.1 million. The fact that the boy was only three years of age, regardless of his height, no doubt played a role in their case.

Lack Of Amusement Ride Standards On The State Level

It is concerning that rides that are made mostly of metal and can go up to speeds of 15 MPH have less safety standards in Illinois than almost any other child product. This is due to most other products being Federally regulated for safety. Somehow amusement rides have found a loophole in the system.

According to one of the five Illinois state inspectors that inspect the thousands of Illinois amusement rides annually, they are not evaluating whether the ride specifications are safe. They are mostly concerned with the maintenance of the rides and that the parks are meeting state operation rules.  The manufacturer decides safety standards such as restraints and height/age requirements, so as long as the park adheres to them, they are considered within the Illinois state parameters.

Other states have adopted more stringent regulations on amusement rides. The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) set the common guidelines some other states use. IAAPA has a F-24 committee that sets voluntary safety standards that have been used as guidelines for states and governments around the world. The committee is made of consumer advocates, government officials and several levels of personnel from the amusement ride industry. They make recommendations that go above the level of safety requirements set by the manufacturers.

Illinois needs to ensure they are protecting the safety of the children of our state by adopting higher expectations for the amusement parks. At minimum, they need to consider using the IAAPA F-24 committee guidelines to bring Illinois safety to the level enacted by governments all over the world.

Lack of regulations is not an exemption from liability

Even without specific laws that address how amusement ride operators are to maintain and inspect their machinery, custom and practice dictate that they must use good safety practices before allowing the public onto their rides. When operators cut corners on inspection or maintenance of their rides, people are at risk for suffering serious injury. A law firm with experience with amusement park injuries can help determine how the incident occurred and who the responsible parties are.