In the late 90s when I worked in a theme park, safety rules around ride operations were intense. Tests had to be taken and training hours were put in before anyone was left in a position. Here are a few highlights of the expectations:
- The driver behind the controls is not to answer phones, hold a conversation, or leave the driver’s panel when the ride is in operation. You could get fired.
- The number of moving units determines the number of staff, i.e., if a coaster is running three trains, more staff is needed than running one.
- Safety always comes before the guest’s satisfaction. Always.
Times have changed, and rides are increasingly a one-button operation, left up to computer systems. Drivers are now expected to load and unload seats while the ride is in operation, possibly due to staff shortages. My mention of this change isn’t meant to scare, but to inform.
Just like learning to check your tire pressure, it is also in your best interest to learn about ride safety.
How many times have you read about someone falling out of a ride? Too many times for my taste. It is my opinion that staffing issues and lax safety rules are the problems but pointing this out helps no one. Instead, I’ll give you a few ways to be safe while escaping to your favorite park.
Make sure you check the limitations at the entrance of the ride. Those precautionary statements aren’t simply there for insurance purposes. If you have back issues or are pregnant, please understand a quick trip around the track might not end well.
If you are too short, there is a chance the restraints won’t hold you correctly.
If you cannot close the bar due to body size, don’t think you can hold the restraint in place while you whip around the ride. You can’t.
If you have any disability that interferes with the restraint, i.e., leg amputations, don’t take that chance.
Being removed from a ride isn’t a personal attack. It’s a safety issue.
Workers might not check your lap belt or bar. Yes. This is true. Loading and unloading cars for an eight*hour shift is killer on the back and legs. Less enthusiastic staff will skip cars.
When you are standing in line, make note of how the staff is checking the restraints. It’s not too hard to figure out how they work and when a lap bar is not properly secured. Most often, they click or make a latching sound. Other times, you can hear the hydraulics hiss.
If your lap bar doesn’t seem secure, ask for help. Don’t assume it is okay. Don’t think you’re being paranoid. And for the love of funnel, if a staff member dismisses your worry, get off that ride!
These things happen every day, even with the best of staffing. No minimum wage ride worker wants to turn people away, but a moment of uncomfortableness is far better than having to explain why a guest was injured.
Please keep in mind the restraints of a ride are designed for the general public―a one size fits most approach, which you understand is never true.
I guess the bottom line is to be mindful when boarding a ride. Knowing that you’re secure in the seat will make the coaster’s first drop extra fun. Stay safe out there and ride a double-loop for me!