Are Traveling Carnivals a Recipe for Disaster?

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    Throughout the United States, traveling carnivals are a beloved summer staple for children and adults alike.  But if you’re looking for an adrenaline rush, you may want to think twice about where you go to find it.  Unlike their permanent, fixed-location counterparts, mobile fairs are not subject to federal inspections  — which means the potential for catastrophic injury is an ever-present risk. If the government isn’t regulating carnival rides, who is?

    Traveling Carnival Accidents

    The amusement industry is a big business.  According to the IAAPA, or the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, some 300 million guests take nearly two billion rides every year, primarily during the hot summer months.  The IAAPA also states, “Safety is the number one priority the amusement park industry.”

    It’s hard to objectively agree or disagree when it comes to traveling carnivals, considering only 7% of them presently report any accident data.  In other words, 93% of these fairs — virtually all of them — are mysteries from a safety standpoint.  Do they have a clean record, or a terrible record? It’s effectively impossible for patrons to know, since the data simply isn’t readily available.  One would think that a stellar safety record would be a sales-driving profit booster, so the decision to withhold accident information seems slightly unusual.

    As for the slim sliver of data which is available for analysis, the numbers indicate that injuries are increasing by up to 12% each year.  While it might be argued that population growth makes a minor contribution to this steady increase, it is nonetheless a disturbing trend which suggests that something is continuously going wrong.  But what?

    The problem can be traced back largely to the Consumer Products Safety Act, which does not bind mobile attractions such as fairs and carnivals to federal inspection.  Not only are the rides subject to bare minimum inspections, they are plagued by a host of other issues.

    For instance, carnival rides are constantly traveling.  This means that they are disassembled and reassembled, day in and day out, often by laborers hired for low wages on a short-term basis.  Not only are they constantly broken down and rebuilt (potentially increasing the chance of a mistake being made in a sheer numbers game), they are also regularly passing through different locations with different climates.  Materials can shrink or expand, tighten or loosen, or short-circuit completely.

    Nor do the potential problems end with assembly.  The operators at carnivals are frequently under-trained and underpaid, placed into temporary jobs which only last through the few months of the peak season.  This contributes to a somewhat lax safety culture, and in turn, the overall risk of injury to visitors.

    The Most Dangerous Rides Aren’t What You Think

    When it comes to the types of rides which are most likely to injure passengers, you might be surprised.  While it’s true that roller coasters are historically the worst culprit (accounting for 16 out of the 51 amusement park deaths which occurred from 1987 to 2000),  even seemingly tame rides can be very dangerous.  A study published in the medical journal Clinical Pediatrics found that merry-go-rounds and carousels — often dismissed as “boring” or “lame” in favor of bigger, faster attractions — accounted for an unexpected 21% of all park injuries.

    Inflatable attractions can also deceptive from a safety standpoint.  While it seems hard to believe that soft, stationary attractions could ever pose a threat to patrons, a report issued by the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) in 2005 stated that inflatable ride accidents displayed a “statistically significant upward trend over the period from 1997 to 2004.”

    According to OABA, or the Outdoor Amusement Business Association, the CPSC reported over 2,500 injuries in 2004 alone.  On average, about 5% are categorized as catastrophic injuries which require hospital care.

    If you or someone you love was hurt at a carnival, fair, or inflatable attraction, call the amusement park accident lawyers of The Reiff Law Firm at (215) 709-6940 today to schedule a free and private legal consultation.