Wild Rides

Fast cars and wild rides => occasional injuries

  • Speeding, spinning vehicles and rapid changes of direction can apply significant stresses to the human body. The odds of injury from riding a thrill ride are very low for most people, but motion-related back/neck injuries and damage from impacting the containment system are the most frequently-reported ride-related injuries.
  • Human beings are the most complex and unpredictable component in ride design.  A ride designer can specify the precise size and strength of the bolts used to hold the track together, or hold the lap bar onto the vehicle.  The engineer can count on those inanimate materials to react to stress in the same predictable ways.  Riders’ bodies are not uniform in size, shape, or resistance to stress.  They do not always react in predictable ways.

Safety Issues

One-size-fits-all ride designs can leave small riders slip-sliding away and put the crunch on bigger riders

  • Amusement rides are designed to accommodate the maximum possible range of human bodies (aka “paying customers”). This business constraint can lead to ride designs that fit poorly for riders at either end of the spectrum.
  • Some industry-standard containment/restraint systems expose smaller riders and very large riders to higher risk of falls and ejection from moving rides, injuries from impacts within the containment system, and injuries from too-tight restraint fit.
  • Rides with individually-adjustable restraints for each rider tend to be safer than those with fixed-position lap bars, or a single bar used for multiple riders.

Some rides can give some riders a real pain in neck

  • According to data collected by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), neck sprain is the most common type of ride-related injury treated in hospital emergency rooms.  As thrill rides whip the human body around, the weight of the head exerts strong forces on the neck.  Risk factors for neck injury include:
    • Previous injuries or preexisting medical conditions affecting the neck.
    • Acceleration profile of the ride, especially rapid changes in direction of movement.
    • Seat and restraint design, including padding and neck support.  Coasters with low-backed bench seats may allow the rider’s neck to snap backward.
    • Strength of rider’s neck.  Full-sized rides are designed for a median adult male weighing 170 pounds.  Younger, older, and more slender riders do not have as much muscle strength in their necks to hold their heads upright.  CPSC data from hospital emergency rooms indicates that women are twice as likely to suffer ride-related neck injuries as men.
    • Flexibility of rider’s neck.  Older riders and people who suffer from conditions affecting flexibility and bone strength, such as arthritis should avoid high-g rides that tend to whip the rider’s head around.

Keep your head on straight: the importance of riding “eyes front”

  • On highly dynamic rides, patrons should keep keep their heads upright and facing forward.  One doctor studying ride-related neurological injuries noticed that many of those injuries happened when the rider turned his/her head (to check on a child seated next to them, for example) right before a change in direction or magnitude of acceleration.
  • Newer ride designs use several techniques to keep riders heads aligned properly.  Seats and restraints are designed to discourage side-to-side movement.  Heavily themed rides use carefully-positioned visual elements to keep the rider’s attention focused forward.
  • All patrons should pay attention to this warning.  Parents should make a special effort to teach children the importance of riding “eyes front”.



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