Your Child's Brain on a Roller Coaster
Faster Than A Speeding Bullet...
Well, maybe not quite. Yet without a doubt, the new high-speed roller coasters making their debut at theme parks across the country this season are incredibly fast. But is a wild ride just a great dose of summer fun... or cause for concern?
Do Fast Rides Cause Brain Damage?
"This may seem foolhardy, but no," says Anna L., who with her 14-year-old daughter Haley has enjoyed several of the new thrill rides, including the "Mantu" at Busch Gardens. "I get the feeling that with liability insurance as high as it is, most of these amusement parks are very careful."
That's what the industry claims, but with no federal regulations governing the parks, we'll have to take their word for it. In the wake of six deaths at amusement parks last summer -- including four accidents at three parks in a single week last August -- some suggest there should be more oversight.
Congressman Edward Markey (D-MA) has sponsored a bill that would allow the Consumer Product Safety Commission to conduct safety inspections following an accident. A hearing on the bill, H3032, was held in mid-May.
Some parents and policymakers are also concerned about new research showing a potential link between high-speed roller-coaster rides and brain injuries. In a 2000 issue of the medical journal, Neurology, Japanese researchers reported the case of a 24-year-old woman who developed subdural hematomas (blood clots) on both sides of her brain following six rides on three high-speed roller coasters (including the Fujiyama, believed to be the fastest, steepest roller coaster in the world.) Since the report in Neurology, other disturbing findings of brain injuries linked to roller coaster rides have surfaced.
Are Riders at Risk? Stats to Consider, Tips to Remember
Here are some safety suggestions for families adapted from saferparks.org (run by consumer advocates concerned about ride safety) and www.iaapa.org (the website for the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, which represents park owners):
- Keep hands, arms, legs, and feet inside the ride at all times.
- Point out riders who are following the rules, and those who aren't.
- Talk with kids about how to behave on a ride. Ask questions to get them thinking about the consequences of foolish behavior. "What could happen if you unhooked your seat belt on a roller coaster? What could happen if you stuck your foot out as the car was approaching the platform?"
- Ask yourself: "Do I fit comfortably in the restraint?" If you do not sit -- or fit -- in the seat properly, the safety restraint may not function properly.
- If you tend to get nauseous in the back seat of a car, sit in the front of the ride.
- Don't ride on a full stomach. Wait an hour after eating before getting on a ride.
- Report any concerns you may have about the appearance or operation of a ride immediately to park management.
At 310 feet, it's the world's highest. Riders fly down the first hill at 92 mph.
225 feet high, 85 mph.
208 feet high, 80 mph.
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