Federal Oversight of Amusement Park Rides Has Been Regularly Lobbied Against by the Six Flags Trade Group

The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) is a trade association designed specifically to represent the interests of amusement parks throughout the world. Based in Alexandria, Virginia, the IAAPA has made a solid name for itself within the amusement park and entertainment industry, but new reports of the association’s frequent lobbying efforts against the federal oversight of amusement park rides bring to light new information that could change the way in which the association has since been viewed.

In a review of past lobbying records connected with the IAAPA, routine lobbying against the efforts at federal safety regulations of amusement park rides have been made for years on end. The finding of such evidence has surfaced at what could prove to be a critical time for the amusement park industry, as yet another fatal roller coaster accident occurred just last week at Six Flags Over Texas. Given the sensitivity and concern that have generated in relation to last week’s fatal roller coaster accident in Texas, many people are now raising their eyebrows upon learning that the IAAPA deliberately acted against efforts that might have been able to prevent the accident, and others, from happening in the first place.

The federal bill that would extend jurisdiction of fixed-site amusement parks such as Six Flags Over Texas and other theme parks like it, to the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission has been frequently lobbied against by the IAAPA for years. As it stands, the federal commission oversees only mobile / portable rides that are set up and taken down at traveling amusement parks such as fairs and carnivals. The federal efforts to extend this regulation to the rides at fixed-site parks has yet to win the approval of powerful lobbying groups such as those that support the IAAPA. Currently, rides that remain at fixed-park sites are regulated by local- or state-level insurance companies; that is, if they are regulated at all.

Now, less than a week after the fatal roller coaster accident that left one 52-year-old woman dead after falling off of the Texas Giant roller coaster at Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington, Texas, questions about the death are stirring up other concerns as well. One such concern is the noticeable lack of federal regulation that is currently absent from the amusement park industry as a whole. Now more than ever, a considerable number of people are beginning to truly question why federal oversight of amusement park rides such as that which took the life of an unsuspecting guest at Six Flags Over Texas remains nonexistent.

The concerns that have recently arisen among the general public are the same as those that have been felt by United States Senator E. Markey (D-Mass.) who spent more than 12 years fighting to enact the National Amusement Park Ride Safety Act – from 1999 to 2011 – while serving in the House of Representatives. One of the biggest and most powerful acting lobbyists to thwart Markey’s ongoing efforts at enhanced amusement park safety has been the IAAPA. Suggesting that the association supports efforts that would “TRULY enhance safety,” a spokesperson for the IAAPA seems to be suggesting that federal oversight of theme parks would not be successful in improving an industry record that is already excellent in terms of safety. Panelist experts have voiced similar feelings, saying that the efforts at safety monitoring at amusement parks would be unlikely to be as effective as that of the current system.

Reports have confirmed that the IAAPA has lobbied on the proposed bill – the National Amusement Park Ride Safety Act – and other lodging and tourism industry issues, some $8.2 million since 1999. Regardless, senators of a like mind to Markey will continue to fight for the federal oversight of rides and attractions at amusements parks across the country. In their minds, as in ours, it is quite apparent that roller coasters need tougher regulations. As Markey put it, “We need to close this ‘roller coaster loophole’ and ensure federal authorities can investigate these accidents and order necessary safety improvements when necessary to prevent injuries.” The “patchwork of regulations,” to which Markey refers regarding the amusement park industry was made all the more clear in a recent study conducted by NBC news in which a survey of state codes was taken. The results of the survey showed seven states, Texas among them, as accepting safety inspections conducted by professionals and / or insurance companies that are employed or contracted by the theme park itself. Eight other states require no permits or inspections of their theme parks.

The battle between proponents for the federal oversight system of amusement parks and the IAAPA has been ongoing for more than a decade, and it looks as if it will continue to be a source of contention for some time more. In the meantime, visitors of any theme park in the U.S. should take careful precautions when riding on the attractions at these sites. Although rare, serious injuries and fatalities do result from the dangers that can be imposed to riders of rollercoasters, water rides, and the like. We urge anyone who was injured or otherwise harmed at an amusement park to contact our office immediately. A California amusement park injury attorney from our firm is here to help you recover damages for your injuries. Contact us today to learn more.