Monday, January 22, 2007

About That Amusement Park Safety Interest

I notice Stephanie at The Tortellini has (I think a little tongue-in-cheek) credited me with "enlighten[ing] me about the dangers of amusement parks (as if I didn't already suspect that those places were sort of a problem!)"

Just to be clear, I actually think that amusement parks and carnivals have a very solid safety record, for all sorts of reasons.  Partially it's due to some decent regulators in many states, and partially it's due to the incentives created by tort law, and partially it's because the people who get into the amusement park industry are good and decent people who don't want their customers to get hurt.

Because there's no consistent reporting of injuries (which I do think is a regulatory and statutory failure), it's impossible to be certain, but the best evidence is that the rate of injuries is quite small and of fatalities that can reasonably be attributed to the parks is exceedingly small.  And that attribution includes many things that don't necessarily suggest a defect, at least in design, like heart attacks or other results of the stress and excitement that inhere in the rides.  (Do a Technorati search for some of my posts about Mission: Space for some of those issues.)

So I hope nobody reading what I write about amusement park safety takes it as a warning to stay away.  I love amusement parks and almost all of the industry and go to parks, with my kids, frequently.  I do pay attention, as should you, and I know the limitations of my kids.  But I go, and I feel safe doing so.

I post about and think about amusement safety because the issues are interesting, they're accessible and compelling to students and others, and they're easily expandable to fit into other discussions.  Virtually every issue of importance in torts and products liability law can be explored, with great stories, in amusement park fact patterns.  But it's not an attempt to scare folks off.

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