Data Source Pros and Cons

The differences between the public records gathered by state ride safety offices and the public records gathered by the Consumer Product Safety Commission are summarized below.

  Federal Government (CPSC) State Safety Agencies
Data Source (1) NEISS data - Sampling of medical records from 100 hospital emergency rooms across the country. (2) Detailed investigation reports on major accidents involving portable rides (fixed-site rides are exempt from CPSC jurisdication). Accident reports submitted by ride owners to state safety officials and/or accident investigation reports compiled by state safety officials.
Types of Equipment Covered NEISS category "Amusement Attractions" includes amusement rides (e.g. coasters, Ferris wheels, etc.) and other amusement devices, such as inflatables, coin-op rides and mechanical bulls. Injuries related to go-karts and public water slides are tracked under separate NEISS product codes. Varies from state to state.
Information Provided Patient's age, gender, body part affected, incident description from patient, preliminary diagnosis, etc. Typically identifies the type of ride or device, number and age of injured patrons, and some type of short narrative. Information value varies widely by state and company making the report.
Benefits of Data (1) NEISS data is uniform, provides insight into age and gender, diagnosis, commonly-affected body parts, etc. Allows long-term tracking of injury trends, within the limitations of the sampling and categorization system. (2) In-depth investigation reports for portable ride accidents have a high level of technical detail and analysis. Can provide insight into the common causes of ride-related injuries. Some agencies send accident investigation reports, which offer detailed insight into causes of some serious accidents. Other agencies send a log of accident reports provided by the owner/operator of the ride, which can be used in aggregate to identify patterns.
Limitations of Data NEISS data is strong on medical information, but generally weak in identifying the specific ride or device and conditions under which it was operated. The lack of uniformity in types of devices regulated, accident reporting criteria, public access to safety records, and format of state records creates a hodge-podge of data that limits reliable statistical analysis. The records are best used as a collective source of information about ride-related injuries with focus on spotting trends.