Let’s have a rant about theme park safety.
Today’s events are starting to become not a rare occurrence that I roll my eyes at but an almost weekly game of how hard can I hit my head against the desk.
Yet today’s another day where I open up Facebook and see a clickbait story that’s popped up on my feed about something routine happening at a theme park. Thing is though, for those uneducated on just how safe modern thrill rides are, it’s easy to open up something from the Gold Coast Bulletin or MyGC and be shocked by yet another “Movie World’s rides are super dangerous” type of article. Now, i’m not against either publication persay, but if there’s two things that grind my gears more then anything else on planet earth it’s:
- Journalism with a clear bias.
- Using someone else’s content (like, oh, I dunno, mine for example) without attribution or permission to spread said content.
But, here we are in 2016, where almost every single human being has access to the world’s entirety of knowledge and education in their palm of their hands via the wonder that is the internet and articles like this still pop up that not only spread a clear mistruth but use someone else’s content without consent to do so. Grrrr.
Before I keep going, let’s actually look at what’s wrong here and take a quick step back in time. Roller-coasters in terms of safety are a lot like aeroplanes. When they first started becoming a lot more common, refining their design, engineering and what worked was almost 100% trial and error. Despite this, over decades of refinement we’ve come to a point in both industries where you’re more likely to die making your breakfast or getting there by car then actually falling out of the sky (a saying that rings true for both industries). In fact, statistically speaking, you’re nearly 18 times more likely to die at the hands of a bread-wielding toaster, or nearly 11 times more likely to die folding a deck chair after a snooze then on a ride at your local amusement park.
How is this possible? First some truths. At this point in thrill ride design, manufacturers have a solid understanding of when parts require replacement and what bits could fail. But before that even happens, let’s first understand that parks don’t even build their own rides anymore. By and large, they purchase them from internationally respected engineering firms who have backgrounds in mundane yet everyday areas like transportation and even bridge building. These firms don’t muck about, these attractions are riddled with safety protocols and counter-measures that would make any over-zealous, government O&HS pencil pusher drool. Things like dual computer systems that talk to every single sensor on the ride, and, when they don’t agree on where a train is, they shut the whole ride down. Things like multiple redundancies on harnesses (like two sets of hydraulic pistons keeping your lap bar in place) so there’s an unfathomably tiny chance that you’ll fall out. Things like brakes that only work when there’s electricity. Things like daily maintenance checklists, where on some days, engineers literally walk track, visually inspect every nut and bolt and even run their hands up against thousands of metres of steel cable, checking for imperfections. When you consider how many hundreds of moving parts there are, how many thousands of guests these rides churn through every hour, seven hours a day, seven days a week, it’s then you’ll start to realise that in the world of taking no chances, it’s better that a ride like Green Lantern and it’s array of automatic safety systems pro-actively stops the ride temporarily, even if it’s just a bird sitting on a sensory, then pummelling onwards into a risky situation.
I could go on, but you get the idea. And let’s not beat around the bush here, just like the aviation business, having a single fatality, let alone an injury could permanently damage, if not destroy a brand in a heartbeat. Theme parks are prepared to spend millions on making sure every mis-step is avoided, so that even when something like Green Lantern’s accident in March last year, where despite extensive computer modelling to the contrary, a part fails, that part will fail in such a way that it minimises serious risk to riders.
So why all the drama then? Why do we love reading these clickbait articles? It’s because unlike the aviation industry, theme parks are selling the idea of fear to get you through the gate. The scarier, the better. And let’s be fair here, if they weren’t topping themselves year in and year our with bigger, faster thrill rides, you’d stop visiting. Mainstream media knows this, and knows a good story when they see it, so naturally it’s headline news. And despite a ride working exactly as it should, that it would stop automatically as a precaution, we still have articles like this one where big brands think it’s okay to turn the routine into drama, and to take from the little guy.
So the next time you see something like this pop up, just remember, cite your sources and be aware of bias in journalism. If there isn’t an industry professional or representative offering a counter point, it’s more then likely you’re being fed an opinion that’s pretty far from reality.
Editor’s Notes: At the time of writing, we’ve reached out to MyGC via Twitter & Facebook and despite MyGC posting new articles we haven’t heard back. (Updated 29/3 – MyGC have apologised for using our imagery, continuing to cite Twitter as the source. When pressed on where specifically on Twitter, we weren’t responded to. We’ve tried to follow this up and find where their team could’ve found the image, but sadly neither has yielded any result.)