Safe Thrills—Build Your Family’s Amusement Park Safety Plan

Is your family planning to fit in last-minute thrills at an amusement park or fair this weekend? Whether you’re planning to ride roller coasters at Michigan’s Adventure or the rides at the Chelsea Community Fair, it is important for parents to give attention to ride safety.

A recent national poll by The C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health asked a national sample of parents of children age 5-12 years about their views on keeping kids safe at amusement parks and carnivals. About 4 in 5 parents (82%) reported that their child had been to an amusement park and/or a carnival in the past three years, with more going to amusement parks (69%) than carnivals (57%).

Supervision or free-range?

Almost all parents in this Mott Poll reported they stayed with their child at all times (89%) during visits to amusement parks or carnivals, although some used strategies such as a set check-in time, which might be appropriate for older children. Younger children need consistent supervision to ensure they meet the height requirements for rides and that they understand other safety rules (such as keeping hands away from the safety latch). While children at the older end of this age range may want more freedom to roam the amusement park and go on rides with friends, without constant parental supervision.

However, even when parents plan to maintain constant supervision of their child, situations occur where children get separated from their parent. Therefore, it is important to always have a back-up plan. This should be part of pre-trip planning when parents can discuss safety rules, check-in times & locations, and what to do if they get lost. Proactive measures such as these can help to ensure trips to the amusement park or carnival are both fun and safe for all. Most parents (79%) reported they talked with their child about what to do if they got lost or separated at an amusement park or carnival, while 21% either did not or did not remember discussing what to do in this situation.

Monitoring ride operator behavior

Almost all parents in this Mott Poll believed both they and the ride operators have important roles to play in keeping their children safe. Understanding and following safety rules are important to prevent injuries. Just in over the last year, there were over 30,000 injuries at amusement parks and carnivals across the USA. However, parents varied in their views about reporting ride operator behavior. For example, almost all parents (94%) definitely would report a ride operator to a person in authority if they suspected the operator were drunk or on drugs, while 69% definitely would report a ride operator for not enforcing safety rules such as seat belts or height requirements. Less than half of parents (48%) definitely would report a ride operator for being on his/her cell phone while operating a ride. Parents should consider contacting the management of the amusement park or carnival whenever they see anything that raises safety concerns.

Before your family heads out the door make sure your children understand safety rules, check-in times, and meet-up locations if you plan to separate. A little pre-trip planning can make the day safer, prevent injury and worry, and therefore mean your family has more fun!

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