How to Overcome A Fear of Roller Coasters

Best Of Theme Park Tips

Pete Trabucco has a new book out called: America’s Top Roller Coasters & Amusement Parks: A Guide for Those Who Ride Them & Tips for Those Who Fear Them. I’ve seen a ton theme park and roller coaster books in my time, but I can’t recall one that had tips for people who were feared roller coasters. Believe it or not, I was scared of roller coasters until I was a teenager, so I can sympathize with those who don’t have the stomach for the thrill machines. Over the years that I’ve been blogging, numerous people have contacted me with questions on how they could overcome their fear.

Pete Trabucco has offered up some great tips in his chapter called: “Fighting the Fear of Roller Coasters”. Let’s have a look:

Never Coerce People or be Coerced
His first tip isn’t so much of a tip; it’s more of a rule. If someone’s not quite ready to tackle the towering thrill ride at your local park, don’t pressure them. It typically turns out bad. I feel that some gentle nudging and encouragement can’t hurt as I’ve converted three of my good friends this way over the years, but I’d stop there.

Start with Smaller Roller Coasters
Ant Farm Express at Wild Adventures - Family Roller Coaster
To me, this is a pretty obvious tip, but I’ve been shocked by how many people have intense roller coasters as their very first ride. I just met a girl at SeaWorld whose first roller coaster was a flying roller coaster at another park. Try a smaller, slower roller coaster for your first time out or even if you’re rusty and haven’t ridden in a while. The recently mentioned mine train roller coasters are great for gearing up for the bigger rides. They have short drops and relatively short heights. These junior roller coasters are maybe just a bit taller than your house.

Learn the Layout of the Roller Coaster
How many times have you been in the queue and heard someone asking, “Does this ride go upside-down?” As a novices you may feel more comfortable and mentally prepared if you can get someone to explain to you in detail what to expect. Even better, if you can see the ride’s entire layout and study it, it might make you feel more up to the task. This was always a problem with terrain roller coasters like Apollo’s Chariot at Busch Gardens Europe. I could never get my brother to ride because he couldn’t see the layout.

Brace Yourself
Roller coaster enthusiasts loathe being stapled into a coaster by lap bars and over-the-shoulder restraints. We want to be free to feel that sought-after airtime and floating sensation. Newbies probably aren’t ready for this and will likely want to feel as safe and secure as possible. So lower that lap bar as low as possible (while still being comfortable). You’re not going to fall out of the roller coaster regardless, but a tighter lap bar may help convince your worried mind.

Breathe & Scream!
Breathing and screaming can keep the blood flow in your upper body. This can decrease the chances of blacking out. Maybe I should’ve tried this on Magic Mountain’s Goliath. Pete Trabucco is a seasoned pilot, his recommendation is one that pilots use to as they experience heavy g-forces just as we coaster riders do. So yes, screaming is not only fun, but it’s recommended.

For more on Pete Trabucco’s “…Tips for Those Who Fear Them”, and some great, in-depth roller coaster reviews of the America’s best roller coasters, pick up a copy of his book today. I hope to interview Pete and have a complete review of his book up soon.

Roller Coasters Are Safer than “Fill in the Blank” 
For me, knowing that I’m not going to die and that roller coasters are much safer than driving a car is enough. It’s the perceived danger that makes riding roller coasters fun. But remember that the danger is only perceived. In a car chances of death are 1 in 18,000 and in a plane chances of death are 1 in 350,000. You even have a better chance of dying from parts falling off an airplane than on a roller coaster (1 in 10,000,000). In comparison, you have a 1 in 1.5 billion chance of being fatally injured on a coaster. Those kids in Final Destination 3 really had some bad luck, huh? I understand that fears aren’t always rational, but these numbers might put you at ease.

What’s Your Take?
Do you have a fear of roller coasters? Have you tried to overcome them? What do you think of Pete’s tips? What tips have helped you? Leave a comment below.

Founder of CoasterCritic.com. My favorite coasters are B&M hypers and gigas. I'm also a huge fan of terrain roller coasters.

57 Comments

  1. "Start with Smaller Roller Coasters"

    That is the best piece of advice that can be given. I was afraid of roller coasters my whole life because my first was the Millennium Force at Cedar Point! I fell in love with them last summer after getting tired of the little coasters. Hersheyparks is the best local park for this, because their rides have a clear procession. The Woodies, Wild Mouse, and Trailblazer–Super Dooper Looper–Great Bear–Stormrunner and Fahrenheit. I overcame my fear there. Also, it helps to have a single trusted friend with you. They'll make you feel safe and carefree and whatnot. Final tip– act unafraid. If you act a certain way, your nerves will end up believing your act, too. Put your arms up while going down hill– for some reason it's actually scarier if you hold on!

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    • My boyfriend thinks this will fix everything…ooops!

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  2. My method was to get on and click in. Millenium force was the cure for me. I suggest getting on the biggest scarriest ride you can find and just putting on the safety restraints. When you get off you will be happy you did and your day from then on will be much better. Look foreward if you decide on an air/hydraulic launch like kingda ka or top thrill dragster. Newer rides are smoother as well this may help your enjoyment. If you are tall like me don't get on an over the shoulder harness ride if you have to slouch even the tiniest bit. Not worth it believe me that is a bad day.

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  3. do you know what coaster is on the cover, and where it is?

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  4. well i think its scarier because youre nervous, and expecting to die. if you can throw your hands up, you will feel free, and like you can overcome anything. and im not a hippie

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  5. The coaster on the cover of the book is Millennium Force at Cedar Point. It's in Sandusky, OH I think about an hour west of Cleveland. It's a monster of a ride!

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  6. My biggest problem is the inablity to scream on a drop any higher than about 50 feet. Any ideas?

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  7. hey thanks for the tips heres the story i love roller coasters just not the upside down ones when i was 3 my cousin and my family went to six flags st.louis and they were going to ride the batman and i was too small while we were waiting for them to get off he told me that when u go upside down all the blood rushes to your head and u die harsh huh? i know its not true but everytime i get in the line and see them go upside down i keep thinking about him telling me that and i feel bad when we go cuz my mom spends money on me and i only ride the mild ones i think i could bt i just need a bost could u help me???????

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  8. Like I said, for me I find comfort in the numbers. 300 million people visit amusement parks every year. Many of those people ride roller coasters with no incident at all. During loops you'll experience g-forces. It feels like a pressure pushing down on you or the lack of pressure where you'll feel like you're floating. You've already experienced g-forces when riding in a car. The forces are just more intense on a roller coaster. And again, it sounds silly, but you're statistically, much, much safer on Batman than in a car.

    I'm no psychologist, so I'm not sure what to tell someone who knows they have an irrational fear. Maybe you could try going to the area where riders exit. Do a little people watching. See all the people that are getting off the ride. Some are anxious to get right back on, others are winded, others a little disoriented, but they're all fine. You'll be one of those people too. Just tell yourself you'll be fine. Even better you'll likely have fun!

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  9. Thank you for this blog. My boyfriend is taking me to Cedar Point in a couple of weeks, and he loves roller coasters-especially the big ones. When I was younger I had no problem with them and rode everything at King's Island. However as I get older (late 30's) I seem to be developing an irrational fear-I'm going backwards! I think it's because a few years ago I rode the Vortex (which I had ridden many times before with no problem) @KI and I was spent for the rest of the day-never got sick but nauseous and a headache that wouldn't quit. I am only 5'2 and I think my head really took a beating from the restraints. I really want to be able to enjoy these rides at Cedar Point and I will remember the tips from above and appreciate any further advice as well.

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  10. How I got over my fear of rides was at the age of 8 was i went with an experienced rider(my aunt) and she made me go on every ride. This was at California's Great america. Later that summer my dad and i went to the boardwalk in Santa Cruz. It is a great place for beginners because the rides aren't very tall. I became addicted the following year when i went to six flags discovery kingdom, my favorite rides there being V2 vertical velocity and Medusa. Now i'm 15 and i'm planning to go to Magic Mountain this summer and take the next step in my Roller Coaster junkie career.

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  11. "Never Coerce People or be Coerced" – I have a hard time explaining to others that 1. I love, love roller coasters! 2. I have the world's weakest stomach: I've vomited after a hour's car ride. Most of my friends have learned from experience (disgusting, putrid experience) to honor my similar "No Means No" policy. People have a pretty good sense of what rides they can and can't handle and when, respect their decisions and don't guilt them into something they don't want to do!

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  12. I used your tips and kept repeating mind over matter to myself, them started the day on Top Thrill Dragster and proceeded to ride them ALL at Cedar Point-even rode Millenium Force and Top Thrill (at night-THAT was cool)TWICE (-; Also, made it to the front on the Maverick.

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  13. Wow really nice Kristen. I dont think of roller coasters scary. They were made to thrill us, not kill us

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    • that could be a roller coaster catch phrase. nice.

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  14. I overcame my fear of roller coasters when I got in line for the Timberwolf at Worlds of Fun(gladly my first roller coaster EVER!!), and I wanted to go through the "chicken exit", but my sisters told me that they would make me dance to the chicken dance… ever since then, I've barely ever had a problem with my fear of roller coasters…(my sisters were lying, of course…)

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  15. I used to be afraid of roller coasters years ago until I rode Millennium Force in 2001. I think a lot of the fear comes from simply not knowing what its going to be like going through loops and corkscrews ect. I think its almost useless to know the layout of a coaster but not know what its going to do to you. When going through a verticaly loop you are actually being pushed into your seat. Many people wouldn't even know that. I think telling people little things like that could go a long way.

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  16. ^I have a very good idea of what coasters will do to me. Through my meager coaster count, the only force I haven't felt is a launch. It is just dropping that gets me. I am not afraid of going upside down, being flung from my chair, or standing up. But when I drop even the slightest distance, I get butterflies. So if I'm plummeting 11 stories like on my tallest coaster as of now, Nessie, my gut is pushed in and I cannot scream. Any ideas?

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    • as stupid as it may seem, I`d suggest riding Kinda Ka. it`s drop helped me whith the stomach churningness of large drops.

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  17. never close your eyes on a coaster. then if u do, there is no way to see what is coming even the littlest bit, and will be scarier. The feeling is with pretty much everyone, so there is no helping that. hope you get on griffon soon!

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  18. My personal fear is of the lap bars not being secure. I have no problems with harnesses, but those pesky lap bars create more insecurity than I ever want to have. Especially the ones with no back ups. Make no mistake, I'm a coaster fanatic, but sometimes feel really nervous about getting on rides with that type of restraint. What's some assurance that they won't come undone in the middle of a ride? I'm so paranoid :).

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    • That is also something that crosses my mind also. Maybe the CC can write something on how that works if he hasn't already but I'm new to the site so I wouldn't know. I was scared of heights for a long time and my father pushed me to go on Loch Ness Monster (home coaster from tidewater area) and Big bad wolf and drachen fire. After that I hadn't been on a coaster for at least 10 years. I worked in CT close to Lake Compounce. Our company had a day where we could go free. For some reason I don't know why I just decided to get on Boulder Dash. It was my first coaster w/o over the shoulder harness because i had the same fear as Austin. Since then I've become more comfortable riding and now with my wife last year we went to BGW and encouraged each other and rode all the coasters. Before we left we rode Apollo's chariot 3 times in a row. Now i'm hooked!! Also really enjoy the site CC.

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      • Thanks Mike! And it's great to hear that you've overcome your fear. You definitely have ridden some great rides with Lake Compounce and BGW under your belt. You didn't happen to work at ESPN, did you? I know that it's near Lake Compounce. Anyway, I'm glad that you're riding again. I didn't like roller coasters until I was about 15, so I was a late bloomer too.

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        • I love all kinds of steel coasters, but except for Kings Island's Beast, I hate woodies.

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          • I thought you said Beast was your second favorite coaster. and you criticised El Toro for not feeling like a woodie.

          • Exactly, Quil. I hate most woodies, but Beast is and exception. And about El Toro, I was never saying I rode it, I was simply commenting on its unnatural smoothness. Afterburn is my favorite steelie.

        • Hey CC,

          Yeah I worked at ESPN for almost 4 years. Now i moved back to VA (but the Northern VA area)to get away from the snow and cold. It's funny because we have more snow here than CT lol. I was probably 16 when I first rode Loch Ness so I am a LATE LATE bloomer (we are about the same age). This summer my wife and I want to hit a bunch of parks tho and catch up on lost time!

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          • you haven't happened to have been to KD, have you? i love that place! hurler and grizzly are AMAZING.

  19. I overcame my fear when I my friend urged me on thunder road when I was about 7. The next year I rode the Hurler and my dad finally convinced me to ride carolina cyclone. The next year I rode everything in the park and was no longer scaired of rollercoasters.

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    • I overcame my fear when my Dad wanted me (I wouldn't say pushed me) on Giant Dipper when I was 9. I loved it and went on it six times that day. I wanted to go on bigger ones. So I got on Roar (SFDK version) and got hooked. But I was still scared to go upside-down. Next time we visited SFDK, I tackled boomerang, my first inverting coaster. That coaster turned my life around. Now I get to any Amusment or Theme Park I can.

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  20. My kids first coaster was the Titan at six flags. They were brave and just got on. My sons face was a little white when we started the first drop. My wifes first coaster was Millenium Force. She screamed so loud but had fun. My stepson was shorter and he rode Vortex at Kings island in the back seat as his first. Get the scariest ride first and then tell them that its all down hill from here. Worked for me and my family. My wifes second coaster was Top Thrill Dragster.

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    • I completely agree with that, I got my cousin to ride everything at Carowinds by getting him to start with Intimidator, then stepping down from there. Worked like a charm!

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