Now that we are all well-versed when it comes to restraints (and if you’re not, head to our last blog post Buckle Up), let’s move on to some common myths about amusement park rides.
There are quite a few myths that circulate around amusement park rides, some are true, and some are old wives’ tales that have been passed down, many of which make rides seem much scarier than they are! We’ll start with the most obvious example: roller coasters.
CLAIM: Once a roller coaster goes over the hill, it’s out of control.
FALSE! With all the safety restrictions and regulations out there, there is no chance that any manufacturer or park operator would allow a vehicle to travel down a track at high speeds uncontrolled. To keep the coaster under control, engineers implement what is called blocking infrastructure. Throughout the ride, there are checkpoints that track the location and speed of all the coaster trains. These checkpoints are called “blocks,” and they are essential to maintain safe speeds and distances between multiple trains on the same track. At each block, the control system rapidly checks the speed and arrival time of the train, and makes sure that the trains in front of it are out of the way. Trains cannot progress until the block in front of them is clear. If the train is going too fast, trim brakes will activate to slow it down. If a train gets stuck somewhere, the control system makes sure that the train behind it doesn’t keep going and bump into it. The ride operators and control system always know where the trains are, where they should be, and where they will be going next. Now that’s in control!
Additionally, there is significant design and engineering that goes into the roller before manufacturing even starts. Simulations and sophisticated software are used as predictive measures on how trains, passengers, and the roller coaster equipment react in every condition. All variables are identified including weather, wind speed, moisture on the track, temperature, train load, and capacities, etc. These are more ways for engineers to predict and control the coaster as you’re hurtling down that exciting first drop.
CLAIM: If a roller coaster doesn’t make it over the hill, it will roll backward and crash into the train behind it.
FALSE again! In the same way that the vehicle is controlled going downhill, blocking infrastructure ensures there are always brakes between trains. No train can continue until the train in front of it safely clears the block. As an example, have you ever seen a big launch coaster not make it over the top hat? You don’t crash; you get to go back and launch again!
With all these safety measures in place, roller coasters are not as scary as they are made out to be…
CLAIM: Maintenance teams only repair rides when they break.
FALSE, and we’ll give an example to explain. Think of your car: would you only replace your oil or brake fluid when it runs out? No, just like your car, maintenance teams inspect and work preventatively to ensure rides are safe. Usually, this work begins bright and early (or more accurately, dark and early before the sunrise), where maintenance teams head out into the quiet, calm park where the rides are waiting. Each team heads to their respective park section and begins their hours of careful, methodical, and safe inspections and repair of all the attractions. After about 3-4 hours of inspections, the maintenance teams give their stamp of approval and hand the rides over to the operation teams, who begin ANOTHER inspection. Finally, the rides open after several teams have ensured their safety.
It doesn’t stop there! Once the park closes, the process reverses: operation teams perform a closing inspection before handing off the rides to the night shift maintenance team. This night team makes sure that the ride is safely locked up and powered down for the night, just so the morning maintenance teams can arrive in a few hours to restart the process for the next day of guests.
You’d think that would be enough, but there are still more inspections! At the end of each year when guests are home and parks are closed, most rides get completely disassembled to perform the annual “tear-down” inspections. Each component, piece by piece, is inspected, repaired, and replaced if necessary. The rides get new equipment, new grease, and a shiny new polish for the start of the new year so guests can enjoy the rides for another season.
CLAIM: “You must be this tall to ride” is just something your parents said so they didn’t have to wait in line with you.
FALSE (but really, sometimes true). Height restrictions are implemented if the ride is too intense or can’t accommodate younger or shorter riders. There are some design considerations like restraint containment and accelerations that make it unsafe for shorter riders.
CLAIM: If your restraint fails you will fall.
FALSE, rides that would be dangerous if the restraint fails have redundant restraints. This means, if one restraint fails, you have a backup restraint to keep you safe. As part of their twice-daily safety checks, safety teams check to make sure that all restraints are in proper working order.
CLAIM: The single seats outside of the ride are for display and pictures.
TRUE, BUT they have a greater purpose than that. While you are welcome and encouraged to take pictures in the seat, these are “Test Seats” that are there to ensure riders can fit into the seat and securely lock the restraint prior to waiting in the queue. This ensures that the rider will be able to ride safely so that they don’t waste minutes (often hours) waiting in line for the attraction.
There are many other myths when it comes to the safety of amusement park rides, but we want to assure you that manufacturers and theme parks are focused on guest safety. If you hear a myth that makes rides seem scary for more than just their intensity and theming, it is most likely false. Safety teams work hard to ensure the screams from the rollercoaster are solely from excitement.
What are some myths that you’ve heard floating around about amusement rides? Leave a comment on one of our social media posts so we can all debunk Safety Myths!