The Importance of Ride Safety
Ride safety is obviously a top priority for amusement/theme parks. There have been numerous instances of loose articles on rides hitting riders and causing personal injury, with cell phones being the primary culprits. Although I’ve never seen anyone get hurt I’ve witnessed several incidents during which unsecured items came flying off El Toro and seen the paraphernalia that ended up on the tarpaulin under Talon’s track. Whenever I find myself sitting next to someone who pulls out a cell phone on a roller coaster with intense G forces I feel apprehensive about the possibility that my seat mate will lose control of the device and end up doing some serious damage.
Since taking up roller coasters as a hobby I’ve invested a lot of money in cargo shorts and pants with multiple zipper pockets to secure my personal items. This was done for both safety and convenience, as it enabled me to ride without anything coming loose and obviated the necessity of storing things in a ride locker, for a fee at some parks. So for the past seven years I’ve been riding with all of my gear and I frankly don’t see anything wrong with this. Apparently, neither did anyone else, as I was never challenged by park security or ride attendants until quite recently.
New Restrictive Ride Policies
Much to my consternation, this season Six Flags Great Adventure instituted a restrictive ride policy prohibiting all personal items on Kingda Ka and cell phones/keys/wallets on El Toro. (Last year the policy for El Toro was that riders with personal items in zipper or button pockets were good to go.) I suspect that this came about as a result of an incident last summer during which a young woman had her front teeth knocked out when an unidentified object struck her on El Toro. As horrific as this was, I was not at all happy when informed by a security guard at Kingda Ka that I would have to empty my pockets and place the contents in a ride locker or leave them with a non-rider in order to ride. I tried to plead my case, pointing out that all my stuff was secured, to no avail. It was either empty my pockets and pay for a ride locker or not ride. I did it that one time but on subsequent visits skipped this ride because with all the junk stashed in my pockets it simply wasn’t worth the hassle. And the irony is that while I was an easy target because it’s glaringly obvious that I have stuff in my pockets, a number of people managed to slip past security at the entrance to Kingda Ka with their cell phones.
I was similarly taken aback on a recent visit to Luna Park when told that I would not be permitted to ride Thunderbolt – a coaster I’d ridden a number of times with my gear in zipper pockets – unless I gave everything in the pockets to a ride attendant. Do the ride attendants and ride ops really think that anything is likely to come loose when the rider is trapped under a heavy metal lap bar that feels like a 15-lb. weight? Of course they don’t think; they’re merely doing what they were told to do. At least Luna Park doesn’t charge anything to store personal items, unlike Great Adventure. If a park is going to impose these types of restrictions on riders, they might at least be accommodating enough to provide free storage.
The Middle Ground? – What is a Fair Policy?
OK, so I’m on a rant but it’s frustrating to encounter obstacles which never existed before. It’s like having the rules change when you’re in the middle of a game. And yes, I understand that the new rules are in place for a reason but there will always be exceptions. Park guests who take appropriate precautions now find themselves having to pay for the actions of those who don’t. So what is a fair policy? The policies in effect at Hersheypark strike me as fair and reasonable. On my recent visit one of the most intense coasters in the park had a sign in the loading area stating that loose articles are not permitted on the ride and another had a sign stating that articles not physically attached to the rider are not permitted. To what extent these policies are enforceable is unknown but at least they’re moderate and supportable.
What’s your take?
Should park guests with zipper or button pockets be permitted to ride extreme roller coasters with their personal gear or should all personal items be banned?