Limitations of Saferparks Accident Data

Users Should Remain Aware of the Limitations Inherent in this Data

The Saferparks Database is a collection of safety-related information from various sources and perspectives compiled into a centralized database. The aggregate data from the Saferparks Database provides insight into the causes and patterns of ride-related injury, but it does not represent a complete or consistent record of ride-related accidents and cannot be ethically used to compare or contrast the safety of different industry sectors, rides/devices, parks, carnivals, or states.

Saferparks accident data varies widely in content and consistency

Only half of U.S. states have provided accident data in response to Saferparks' FOIA requests and the quantity and quality of data records varies widely across jurisdictions. The types of devices covered under reporting laws and the types of incidents required to be publicly reported change from state to state, and sometimes year to year within the same state when laws, rules, or interpretations change.

The number of accident reports in a category depend on many variables unrelated to rider safety

These include: popularity of the ride type, regulatory inclusions/exclusions, local government record retention and public disclosure policies, and individual corporate record keeping policies.

States with stronger government oversight tend to log more accidents

States that carefully monitor a broad range of safety incidents, have efficient data management systems, and provide a transparency to the public will, by definition, produce a higher number of public accident reports. This is, paradoxically, an indicator of more attention to safety, not less.

  • For example, states like California, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey have a lot of amusement parks, provide full records on request, and have the most inclusive public accident reporting requirements in the nation. This produces an effective government accident prevention program and, as by-product, a high number of public accident records. The vast majority of those records describe minor incidents. Cumulatively, they can be used to spot and correct conditions that, if ignored, might lead to serious problems down the road.
  • By contrast, parks in unregulated states have completely clean public records, but there's no reliable way for consumers to know how safe riders really are. Privatizing critical safety information also eliminates the opportunity to use lessons learned for the improvement of safety across all all rides in all parks in all states.

Given the grossly uneven nature of public accountability for this industry in the U.S., a count of reported accidents cannot and should not be correlated to the level of risk at a particular park or in a particular state.

The Saferparks' accident data set may not reliably predict nation-wide or industry-wide patterns

The relative frequencies of certain types of accidents on certain types of equipment may not accurately reflect the aggregate safety records of all amusement devices in the United States. For example:

  • State laws require that go-kart accidents be reported in Florida, but not in California. Thrill ride accidents at major theme parks must be reported in California, but not in Florida. Therefore, records from the Florida Dept. of Agriculture will tend to show a higher percentage of go-kart accidents and a lower percentage of roller coaster accidents than is accurate for that state. California's records are skewed in the opposite direction.

Frequency doesn't necessarily correlate to importance

The tables and graphs provided tend to highlight safety issues that occur most frequently, but there are failure categories that deserve more urgent attention in terms of prevention. For example, equipment failure and serious passenger containment failure (i.e., ejection/falls or hands/feet outside during ride cycle) occurs far less frequently than whiplash or slide-and-bang injuries, but the potential consequences of structural collapse or a child falling out of a moving amusement ride can be catastrophic.