‘You never want to be that person that is injured.”
PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WMBB) — As the summer begins and the coronavirus pandemic ends tourists are returning to Florida seeking fun, sun, and some thrills.
While accidents are rare those who hop on rollercoasters, slingshot pods, and other rides should use a little caution.
“There is a small probability of ever being injured on an amusement ride if we are being honest about it,” said Brian Avery, a professor at the University of Florida. “The number of riders on an annualized basis are in the hundreds of millions. But you never want to be that person that is injured. You don’t want to be the victim of something like that.”
Avery teaches theme park management and risk management. He also consults with theme parks and acts as an expert witness when accidents happen on rides.
“It’s difficult for a guest or a patron of a park to identify you know what potential hazards might exist on these rides or get a reflection of the number of incidents that have occurred,” Avery said.
In Florida, the owners and operators of everything from giant theme parks like Disney World and Universal Studios to traveling fairs and small family fun parks are regulated by the state’s Department of Agriculture. They inspect the rides once a year and if a ride is moved it is also inspected.
“The state of Florida more often than not is looking at the nuts and bolts if you will. They are not monitoring the operation,” Avery said. “So the inspection is as good as it was done on the day of then after that it is up to the operator to continue those inspections, to continue with the proper maintenance and to continue to train their operators.”
Avery says there is a lack of transparency about the number of accidents and which rides might be more dangerous than others.
“Take a look at the outfit sometimes when you visit a facility your instincts, your intuition is going to tell you, ‘something doesn’t feel right here,’ Avery said. “The noise doesn’t sound right or jive with respect to what you are seeing. Or you know, it’s dirty or the operators aren’t paying attention to the equipment.”
The Florida Department of Agriculture said 151 ride accidents were reported in 2018, 179 accidents were reported in 179 and 89 were reported in 2020.