Florida Amusement Park Accidents
Amusement parks in Florida attract millions of visitors every year and are vitally important to the state’s economy. Florida’s famously temperate weather makes it a natural vacation destination for people living in colder climates who wish to swap unrelenting cold and cabin fever for fun in the sun and a day or two at an amusement park. Combine great weather with amusement park rides and attractions that bring out the kid in all of us, and you have a winning combination. Florida’s amusement parks generate billions in revenue each year; with that kind of money at stake, it’s a hyper-competitive business that drives park owners to invest heavily in new attractions. New attractions are powerful marketing tools and can make the difference between a family of four (and their wallets) visiting your park or a competitor’s.
That means the rides and other attractions have to be taller, faster and more thrilling every year or a company’s profit and loss statement will resemble one of their roller coasters with steep declines and the type of thrills that make an accountant wince. These attractions are designed and constructed with a priority on safety. Engineers must negotiate a delicate balance between creating a ride that gets people’s adrenaline pumping while ensuring their safety and workers’ safety at the same time. For the most part, they succeed very admirably. Especially if you consider how many people are entertained, thrilled and frightened on amusement park rides every year. However, a Florida amusement park accident can turn an idyllic afternoon into a tragedy in the blink of an eye.
According to Florida’s Bureau of Fair Rides Inspection, the state has 180 permanent amusement parks and more than 222 traveling amusement companies, and both numbers climb every year. Orlando is home to at least 95 of these theme parks and attractions. The state inspects permanent amusement parks twice a year and traveling amusement parks must be inspected each time they set up before they can open for business. The largest theme parks, attractions with 1,000 or more employees, must have full-time inspectors on staff at all times. Although most amusement parks do report them, incredibly, in Florida and some other states, theme parks are not legally required to report amusement park accidents that result in injury.
This makes it difficult to determine how many Florida and Orlando amusement park accidents occur each year. But when Walt Disney World attracts over 16 million people annually, SeaWorld Orlando 5.6 million and Universal Studios Florida 6.1 million, it’s not unreasonable to project that many thousands of people are injured each year in Florida amusement park accidents. There are for main factors that cause most Florida amusement park accidents.
The first and most common is the guest’s own negligence by failing to follow explicit ride safety instruction or deliberately intending to break the amusement park’s safety rules. It’s hard to protect the safety of people who refuse to observe the rules of the ride and theme park. The next most common cause of injuries is the guest’s health. This can be as simple as a person’s propensity to become lightheaded and faint or serious heart conditions that make walking in a theme park risky and going on a ride a very ill advised activity. There is nothing that an amusement park can do about known or unknown health issues except post signs advising guests against going on this or that ride if they know they have certain health conditions.
The next most common cause of Florida amusement park accidents is the park’s negligence or the negligence of an employee of the park. There are many different ways that a theme park or one of their staff can be negligent. But most of these incidents are caused by failing to provide or enforce adequate safety measures, failure to implement and follow proper maintenance procedures and ride operator errors such as failing to ensure that all riders are properly secured or failing to focus on operating their ride safely. The last of the common amusement park accident causes include Acts of God such as being struck by a bolt of lightning or a freak gust of wind or “generic accidents” such as slips and falls that are not direct results of anyone’s actions or failure to act.
As previously mentioned, theme parks and ride engineers must create rides that provide the illusion or sensation of danger without making them dangerous. Most of us go to theme parks to experience sensations that we wisely avoid in our daily lives such as steep drops, rapid accelerations, gravity-defying inversions and other thrills. The vast majority of the time, amusement parks do a great job of indulging our adrenaline-seeking behavior with rides and attractions that are safe and personnel that place guest safety above all other concerns. But when negligence results in amusement park accidents or tragic loss of life, park owners and operators must be held accountable so that other guests are not injured or killed.