For some, the first things that immediately come to mind when thinking about Florida are beaches, oranges, and amusement parks. Sure, all three of these are iconic facets to Florida’s history and status as a tourism icon for the U.S., but only one predominantly features high-octane thrill rides and mechanical behemoths that require constant monitoring and maintenance to safely operate.
Amusement parks and water parks can be great fun for the entire family. Often on the cutting edge of technology, these parks spend years and countless dollars developing new ways to entertain and thrill, but all with safety as a priority. It’s a tightrope to walk, however. You think of what makes an exciting thrill ride and it is primarily the illusion of danger. The question is, are amusement parks historically as safe as we would like to believe or are they hiding a plethora of potential dangers around every queue?
The Dangers of Amusement Parks
Though fun on most occasions, amusement parks and water parks can hold certain dangers for those who do not follow safety precautions or those unfortunate enough to fall victim to the negligence of others. Such accidents include:
- Slip and Fall: An extremely common risk in notoriously temperamental Central Florida weather, an afternoon shower, morning mist or splash from a water ride is all it takes to make a walkway dangerously slick. In wet conditions, walk carefully and always wear non-slip footwear to avoid injury.
- Ride Malfunction: If an attraction has not been properly examined or maintained, a ride malfunction is possible. Amusement parks must do their due diligence to ensure that all rides are safely operational, as well as operated safely, before letting guests on.
- Unsafe Food: From kiosks to street carts to full-fledged restaurants, there are plenty of food options in amusement parks. If these foods are handled without high sanitary standards or are undercooked, they may leave guests ill.
- Heatstroke: Florida’s heat and humidity can be absolutely suffocating in the summer months. Children and the elderly can easily succumb to heat stroke or exhaustion if exposed to the sun for too long and not given time to rehydrate.
- Ignoring the Rules: Amusement parks and water parks typically post cautionary signs in front of every attraction. These signs often include warnings for those with heart, back and neck problems, epilepsy and other pre-existing conditions that could easily lead to further injury or death. The same goes for going beyond barriers, into staff areas and other off-limits sections of the park. It is extremely important to not ignore the rules/signs posted.
Are Amusement Parks and Water Parks Doing Enough?
Unfortunately, in nearly everything we do, there is a risk of injury or death. Minimizing that risk, however, is primarily the responsibility of the amusement park when you and your family visit one of these attractions. Of course, this does not mean they are solely responsible, as you have a personal duty to obey all posted safety signs and warnings, as well as never act in a manner that is obviously reckless for yourself or others. Barring those exceptions of personal negligence, do amusement parks do enough to protect their visitors?
Due to the strict standards promoted by the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA), yes, by and large, amusement parks do a great job of keeping their gargantuan number of annual guests safe. Maintenance, operational safety and other key considerations are the top priority. That being said, it is important to note that mistakes can (and do) still happen. When they do, far too often we never find out about them.
In Florida, amusement parks only have to publicly report injuries if they immediately require a 24-hour stay at a hospital, or involve a death. That means countless sprains, strains, scratches, bumps and bruises were never made public. Perhaps even more serious injuries slipped through the cracks thanks to this loophole that gives amusement parks a bit of an unfair advantage when it comes to knowing a park’s safety track record.
Though accidents are sometimes unavoidable, amusement parks should be places you can feel safe bringing your loved ones to for a day of family fun. Though most major parks have admirable safety standards, you should review annual injury and death reports and stay informed on news regarding specific parks’ reported incidents. Also, as always, never ignore posted safety warnings or travel beyond designated guest areas. Doing either unnecessarily puts your life at risk and could lead to anything but a family fun day at the park.
Over the years, the attorneys at Wieland, Hilado & DeLattre have handled and continue to handle injury claims against the major theme parks and water parks. If you, a loved one, or a friend have any questions regarding a potential claim, give us a call at (407) 841-7699.