Summer vacation is just around the corner, and your kids will probably be begging for a trip to at least one amusement park. You may find it easy to resist the new high-speed roller coaster that can go in reverse, but younger family members are likely to feel differently.
Parents should be mindful of safety, however, because injuries are common. A recent study found that between May and September, more than 20 children per day are treated in U.S. emergency departments for amusement ride-related injuries.
“That is a pretty significant number,” said researcher Tracy Mehan, manager of translational research for the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. Researchers were particularly surprised by the number of injuries happening at so-called mall rides.
“We found that every day in the U.S., a child is treated in an emergency department for an injury sustained at a ride located in a mall, restaurant, store, or arcade.” Most injuries were the result of falls or by either hitting a part of a body on a ride or being hit by something while riding.
Head and neck injuries were the most common, followed by those to the arms, face, and legs. Most of the injuries involved soft tissue, including strains and sprains. Few of the injuries were not serious enough to require overnight hospitalization.
Researchers were particularly surprised by the number of injuries that were happening at so-called mall rides.
Parents may find it difficult to resist the pleas of young children who want to ride with bigger and older brothers and sisters, but the investigators recommend following the posted age, height, weight, and health restrictions at amusement parks, even if no one is there to enforce them. Safety harnesses may not be sized properly to secure small children safely.
Be sure you and your children follow any special instructions, such as seating order or loading order, and keep hands and feet inside the ride. And use safety equipment, such as seat belts and safety bars.
Parents are the front line of defense. Stick to your guns. If you are worried about a ride, don't let your child on it. Find another. If you are at the mall, explain in simple terms why you don't feel it's a good idea and distract your little one with something else they'd like.
“The key recommendation is to keep children off the ride if they cannot follow the rules, even when they meet the age, height, and weight restrictions,” Mehan says. Parents should follow their instincts, and chose a different activity if they have concerns about the safety of a ride. According to Mehan, “Sometimes, people assume that if a ride is up and running, it must be safe, but that is not always the case.”
And one last thing: parents might think that the best way to keep their kids safe is to ride with them, but that may not be true. For example, if a ride has a lap bar, the lowered bar will stop where the parent’s legs are, and won’t go all the way down to where the child’s legs are. Or, if a ride spins or has sharp curves, the parent could be thrown or slide across the seat into the child. “…[W]e do plan to start talking to people and recommend that we put a national system in place, so we can help prevent these injuries through better injury surveillance and more consistent enforcement of standards,” said Mehan.
In the meantime, parents are the front line of defense. Stick to your guns. If you are worried about a ride, don't let your child on it. Find another. Or, if the ride is at a mall, explain in simple terms why you don't feel it's a good idea and distract your little one with something else they'd like.