Recently, a tragedy occurred at Six Flags Over Texas. A woman fell 75 feet while riding a roller coaster at the amusement park and was killed in the fall. This tragedy has prompted safety experts to call for a discussion on whether there should be stricter and more uniform regulations on amusement parks throughout the nation.
Our Austin accident attorneys know that the Texas Department of Insurance currently has regulations regarding inspections and liability insurance for amusement parks. However, safety experts and some federal lawmakers believe that there should be more stringent regulations set and enforced by the federal government.
Amusement Park Regulations and Ride Safety Issues
The current regulations that govern Texas amusement parks are set by the Texas Department of Insurance. The regulations require that the insurance company for the amusement park must perform an annual inspection and must have $1 million in liability insurance on each ride. Six Flags Over Texas where the death occurred was in compliance with the regulations and had been subject to the inspection. Obviously, however, something went very wrong in a way that led to the amusement park rider’s death.
Six Flags Entertainment Corp. has indicated that both internal and external experts will be investigating how the accident happened. However, there is no requirement that Six Flags release a report on what caused the woman to fall from the roller coaster. The police are also looking into the accident but are not investigating the ride itself, which is a wooden roller coaster that has steel rails, banked turns and a 79-degree drop.
Without a requirement that the investigation details be reported, and with such limited state oversight on amusement parks in Texas, it may never be revealed exactly how this tragic accident happened. This lack of accountability and the absence of reporting requirements is, according to the Washington Post, one of the concerns that is expressed by safety advocates concerned about the dangers that amusement parks present.
The absence of any type of federal oversight is another top concern of many safety advocates, especially in light of this recent death. Massachusetts Senator Edward J. Markey, for example, released a statement after the death at Six Flags lamenting the fact that baby strollers are subject to more federal regulation than roller coasters, which go faster than 100 miles per hour while carrying children and adult passengers. Markey has long pushed for the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to regulate rides at fixed site amusement parks, just as it regulates mobile carnival rides.
The regulations that do exist on amusement parks can vary significantly depending upon the state. While the Department of Insurance is in charge in Texas, in other states the local building inspector, the Department of Labor or the Department of Agriculture have the authority to regulate amusement parks. Some state agencies impose stringent safety requirements while others are far more lax in their rules for parks. Federal rules would change this by imposing national standards.
Industry groups, of course, are opposed to federal regulations and have spoken out supporting state regulations, arguing that state officials are in the best position to determine the rules. However, this recent tragic death has thrust the issue of amusement park regulation into the spotlight and it is possible that there could be increased public support for more comprehensive federal rules to prevent similar accidents from happening in the future.