Americans again this summer have flocked to amusement parks as a source of entertainment. According to the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA), the industry overview is strong evidenced by their recent findings such as:
- There are an estimated (400) amusement parks and attractions currently operating in the US.
- In North America, the approximate number of annual visitors is 375 million.
- The total direct economic impact of these destinations is approximately $55 billion.
- The industry boasts that they are among the largest source of jobs in the US that cannot be “outsourced”.
- Direct employment in the industry exceeds 1.3 million jobs.
- Approximately 500,000 seasonal jobs exist in the industry, which are a good fit for the employment of students.
Critics claim that amusement parks rides are increasingly dangerous as thrill seekers have a strong appetite for new, more exciting rides. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is assigned to oversee amusement ride manufacturing from a federal level; however, there is currently no federal entity assigned to how the rides are installed, maintained or operated. Regulation of the rides is conducted at the state level, and there are no standards for uniformity from state-to-state. A California organization known as Saferparks is an industry advocate that serves to improve the safety of amusement park rides in the US. Saferparks compiled a state-by-state analysis of inspection and safety protocol and their findings were highlighted by the conclusion that six-states in particular had either the absence of, or substandard oversight of the amusement rides. The report indicated that the states of Alabama, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming had standards for safety that were far too lenient in preventing possible injuries among those participating at these attractions.
Meanwhile, reports of accidents recently have continued across the country. An August report in The Colorado Springs Gazette reported some incidents as follows:
- In August, an accident victim was decapitated on what is advertised as “the largest water slide in the world” in Kansas.
- A Ferris wheel in Tennessee abruptly overturned, sending three passengers plummeting nearly 30 feet. A six-year old victim in this incident was reported to have suffered a traumatic injury to the brain.
The CPSC had regulatory authority for mobile and permanent amusement park rides up until 1981, when Congress limited the scope of the agency's oversight to exclusively the mobile (traveling) variety. The CPSC estimates that since 1999, the amusement park lobby had spent over $11 million in efforts to maintain Congressional support for the industry's causes.
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