Last month, Rosy Esparza fell to her death from the Texas Giant roller coaster at Six Flags Over Texas, rekindling debate over whether the federal government needs to do more to police amusement parks and the huge rides and slides therein. "A baby stroller is subject to tougher federal regulation than a roller coaster carrying a child in excess of 100 miles per hour," said Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., in response to the incident. Markey has called for a set of national safety standards for rides at amusement parks, which are currently unregulated at the federal level.
But the industry does seem keen on making a change. According to a spokeswoman from the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, state officials "are best able to determine the level of regulation needed for their state."
Texas regulations require a yearly inspection of amusement parks by each park's insurance company, but Texas' Department of Insurance disavows responsibility for guaranteeing the safety of rides, saying, "Recognition by the Department that the amusement ride has satisfied these standards is not an endorsement by the Department or a statement regarding the safe operation of the amusement ride."
Parks themselves are responsible for investigating accidents. Six Flags has announced that theTexas Giant will stay closed until its own investigation is completed. According to NBC News, several "significant injuries" had already occurred on the coaster this year.
A recent investigation by PublicSource found that Texas is not alone in having potentially problematic amusement park oversight: "State records show that more than half of Pennsylvania's permanent parks and water parks did not turn in all of their 2012 [safety inspection] reports -- affidavits in which certified inspectors attest that they've performed the inspections required by law. The agency had no reports at all for 12 of the state's 117 permanent parks and water parks."
So should there be more federal oversight of amusement parks? Here is the Debate Club's take:
Paul Noland President and CEO of the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions
Walter Reiss Amusement Ride Safety Inspector
Jeffrey M. Reiff Attorney at Reiff and Bily