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I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to rides like rollercoasters. Whenever I step onto a ride or into a rollercoaster car I always find myself looking around at the rusted metal and loose rivets of the ride and imagining the worst.

But then I usually end up telling myself there’s no reason to be scared — that there are all sorts of safeguards the companies who set up rides have to abide by. I guess I’ve always just assumed there’s some big, responsible, all-seeing, all-knowing government agency that’s keeping tabs on companies who throw people through the air at high speeds.

That’s why this story in the Washington Post yesterday really made me think.

The story details the work of the real-life version of my imaginary big all-seeing, all-knowing government agency: The Consumer Product Safety Commission. The real-life version’s a bit more modest that the imaginary agency that’s been offering me assurance all these years. For example, from the story:

The CPSC has no employee whose full-time job is to ensure the safety of such rides. The agency’s 90 field investigators — who oversee 15,000 products, work from their homes and live mostly on the East Coast — are so overstretched that they frequently arrive at carnival accident scenes after rides have been dismantled.

Wow.

The story discusses legislation that was introduced by Rep. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass, that proposes tougher oversight of rides. Then it tells a few horror stories under a sub-heading of “The Safety ‘Illusion.’”

Two 4-year-olds drowned in wave pools in Wisconsin and California. A 21-year-old woman was thrown from a spinning ride in New York. And a Wisconsin teenager died after falling 50 feet from an Air Glory ride.

At Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom, 13-year-old Kaitlyn Lasitter’s feet were severed while she was riding the Tower of Power, a stomach-flipping thriller that draws riders up and pauses briefly before plunging at more than 50 mph. A cable snapped and wound around Kaitlyn’s legs like a bullwhip. Surgeons reattached her right foot, but her left was too damaged to save. The middle-schooler has since undergone more surgery and has had nightmares.

It’s fascinating reading.

I wanted to see whether there have been any incidents like this in San Diego. A couple of Google searches took me to the website www.saferparks.org.

The website contains lists of accident reports from California. It’s a little hard to track down local accidents, but I managed to find a couple, including a kid who got bumped by a bumper car and complained of neck and back pain and another kid who whacked his nose on the safety rail of the Coaster rollercoaster in Mission Beach.

No tragic accidents like the ones detailed in the Washington Post, at least not that I could find.

I’ll keep digging and see if I can find any more reports. In the meantime, I’m not going on any rides anytime soon.

WILL CARLESS

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