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Are Carnival Rides Safe? What You Need to Know Before You Ride

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It’s peak season for carnivals and theme parks. But before you hop on the Gravitron or take a ride on the Zipper, ask yourself: are carnival rides safe? Are you opening yourself up to unnecessary risk?

By now, you’ve probably heard about the accident at the Ohio State Fair, where a spinning, swinging ride called the Fire Ball malfunctioned in late June. As the ride was on its upswing, one of the gondolas disconnected from the rest of the ride and smashed into the ground. One man was killed and several were injured. Investigators blame corrosion on the interior of the support beams for the accident.

An accident? Or does this speak to a greater safety problem with these rides?


Carnival rides, like the Fire Ball, are subject to federal oversight from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). However, this oversight only covers the manufacturing of the rides, not the frequent set up and maintenance. Set up and maintenance are up to the states to regulate. Some do well, while others are very lax.

In Tennessee, regulators have been examining carnival rides since 2009. Regulators are required to do two inspections every year of registered fairs and carnivals, plus any random inspections deemed necessary.

While little can be done for a patron to predict a catastrophic ride failure, there are still things you can do to keep yourself as safe as possible on carnival rides. Go during times when there will be less crowds and wear appropriate clothing and shoes (nothing dangly or loose). Your seat belt should be snug, but not too tight. Follow all instructions like keeping your body inside the compartments or gondolas. And don’t stand up until you’re certain the ride is over.

Proverbs 15:13, “A glad heart makes a cheerful face, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed.”

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