How to Overcome A Fear of Roller Coasters

Best Of Theme Park Tips

Pete Trabucco has a new book out called: America’s Top Roller Coasters & America's Top Roller Coasters & Amuesment ParksAmusement Parks: A Guide for Those Who Ride Them & Tips for Those Who Fear Them. I’ve seen a ton theme park and roller coaster books in my time, but I can’t recall one that had tips for people who were feared roller coasters. Believe it or not, I was scared of roller coasters until I was a teenager, so I can sympathize with those who don’t have the stomach for the thrill machines. Over the years that I’ve been blogging, numerous people have contacted me with questions on how they could overcome their fear.

Pete Trabucco has offered up some great tips in his chapter called: “Fighting the Fear of Roller Coasters”. Let’s have a look:

Never Coerce People or be Coerced
His first tip isn’t so much of a tip; it’s more of a rule. If someone’s not quite ready to tackle the towering thrill ride at your local park, don’t pressure them. It typically turns out bad. I feel that some gentle nudging and encouragement can’t hurt as I’ve converted three of my good friends this way over the years, but I’d stop there.

Start with Smaller Roller Coasters
Ant Farm Express at Wild Adventures - Family Roller Coaster
To me, this is a pretty obvious tip, but I’ve been shocked by how many people have intense roller coasters as their very first ride. I just met a girl at SeaWorld whose first roller coaster was a flying roller coaster at another park. Try a smaller, slower roller coaster for your first time out or even if you’re rusty and haven’t ridden in a while. The recently mentioned mine train roller coasters are great for gearing up for the bigger rides. They have short drops and relatively short heights. These junior roller coasters are maybe just a bit taller than your house.

Learn the Layout of the Roller Coaster
How many times have you been in the queue and heard someone asking, “Does this ride go upside-down?” As a novices you may feel more comfortable and mentally prepared if you can get someone to explain to you in detail what to expect. Even better, if you can see the ride’s entire layout and study it, it might make you feel more up to the task. This was always a problem with terrain roller coasters like Apollo’s Chariot at Busch Gardens Europe. I could never get my brother to ride because he couldn’t see the layout.

Brace Yourself
Roller coaster enthusiasts loathe being stapled into a coaster by lap bars and over-the-shoulder restraints. We want to be free to feel that sought-after airtime and floating sensation. Newbies probably aren’t ready for this and will likely want to feel as safe and secure as possible. So lower that lap bar as low as possible (while still being comfortable). You’re not going to fall out of the roller coaster regardless, but a tighter lap bar may help convince your worried mind.

Breathe & Scream!
Breathing and screaming can keep the blood flow in your upper body. This can decrease the chances of blacking out. Maybe I should’ve tried this on Magic Mountain’s Goliath. Pete Trabucco is a seasoned pilot, his recommendation is one that pilots use to as they experience heavy g-forces just as we coaster riders do. So yes, screaming is not only fun, but it’s recommended.

America's Top Roller Coasters & Amuesment ParksFor more on Pete Trabucco’s “…Tips for Those Who Fear Them”, and some great, in-depth roller coaster reviews of the America’s best roller coasters, pick up a copy of his book today. I hope to interview Pete and have a complete review of his book up soon.

Roller Coasters Are Safer than “Fill in the Blank” 
For me, knowing that I’m not going to die and that roller coasters are much safer than driving a car is enough. It’s the perceived danger that makes riding roller coasters fun. But remember that the danger is only perceived. In a car chances of death are 1 in 18,000 and in a plane chances of death are 1 in 350,000. You even have a better chance of dying from parts falling off an airplane than on a roller coaster (1 in 10,000,000). In comparison, you have a 1 in 1.5 billion chance of being fatally injured on a coaster. Those kids in Final Destination 3 really had some bad luck, huh? I understand that fears aren’t always rational, but these numbers might put you at ease.

What’s Your Take?
Do you have a fear of roller coasters? Have you tried to overcome them? What do you think of Pete’s tips? What tips have helped you? Leave a comment below.

Founder of CoasterCritic.com. My favorite coasters are B&M hypers and gigas. I'm also a huge fan of terrain roller coasters.

56 Comments

  1. My first little coaster was Barnstormer at Disney World, my 2nd (1st looping) was Rock 'n' Rollercoaster, also at DW. Third and 1st floorless was Kraken at SeaWorld. BTW, does anyone have any advice for fear of pitch black rollercoasters? I have a season pass to Kings Dominion, but i'm scared to go on Flight of Fear because of the ride videos. I know it's like rock n rollercoaster, but that one had lights for the signs. any advice???

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    • I've been to KD 3 times this year and Flight of Fear has strobe lights and it's not completely dark so it shouldn't be a problem for you. You can see pretty well. I also rode Skull Mountain and Dark Knight in NJ and those were completely dark and I thought it just made the rides boring.

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  2. awesome! thanks, i'm going on the eighth so maybe i'll try it but who knows we may just stay at waterworks! But I WILL TRY FLIGHT OF FEAR!!!!!! Hooray!

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  3. So, Ive ridden Kingda Ka and all the other massive coasters, i have no fear of height and speed

    however i have never gone upside down, for some reason i am terrified of it.

    any suggestions?

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    • Just try it. Tell someone you'll be going to a theme park with that you're going to ride a small looping coaster. Once you get there, walk dirrectly to the qeueu of that ride. Make sure the person you told is in the qeueu with you as you ride.

      This is sort of a positive version of peer presure, and it works.

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  4. I have had/still have a fear of riding roller coasters. My first "real" roller coaster was Space Mountian at Disneyland, then Roller Coaster at Lagoon, and Bat at Lagoon. For some reason, they took a lot of courage for me when i was 8. I did become confident after riding bigger rides though due to friends saying how easy and slow the rides are. I made a big jump and rode Wicked at Lagoon, and after realizing that i enjoyed it, i rode Colossus. Then I conquered all the rides at SFSTL, but after many trips. Screamin Eagle was pretty easy to make myself go on, a little harder with Boss. Batman took a big amount of courage, but since i braved Wildfire and Powderkeg at Branson, i figured I could do it. It is now one of my favorite rides. Mr.Freeze was the hardest for me to go on, but i got off realizing just how slow the ride was! my toughest coaster by far was Maverick. I got off not knowing whether I liked it or hated it. I still to this day HATE launches on coasters, but Mr.Freeze has a pathetic one so its really easy. I have now realized that basically as long as its not more intense as Maverick, I can easily handle it. My advice to those who are scared: 1. Riding the big one first isn't ALWAYS the best option, although some times it is. I have to build up by riding a couple smaller (but not too small) rides first. 2. Loops aren't nearly as scary as they appear, and are over with before you can notice. Lastly, appearance doesn't really show you how scary it is: Mr.Freeze is tall but not scary at all, while Maverick is really small yet super intense. Dont be scared about riding a roller coaster, it will be for nothing.

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    • All good tips, Frog.

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  5. Hi Coaster Critic! I love your blog and have really enjoyed reading it. This post caught my attention because I used to be very afraid of tall coasters and water slides up until I was about 12 years old.

    I actually had some friends convince me to ride Viper at SF Magic Mountain when I was 11. I stood in the line scared to death and the only thing that consoled me was thinking that everyone I had seen walk off the ride was still alive and smiling.

    I think the only tip I would add to this list (all of them good tips) is to try closing your eyes on your first really big coaster. This is what I did on the Viper and it helped a lot. After that, I never had to close my eyes!

    I will admit that I did like tamer roller coasters before then like Space Mountain and Thunder Mountain at Disneyland, so the peer pressure I gave into was probably something I was ready for.

    I made the mistake of taking my sister in law on a woodie at Lagoon, and she hated it; she definitely wasn't ready, so I think that talking someone into something can go either way depending on the person.

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    • I think Steel coasters may tend to be a bit better for starting out than woodies.

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  6. I went to Cedar Point last year and rode Raptor. Iblcked out on thethe drop andloop but the I was fine from there. Iwan to ride Millenium but just don't knw what really to expect because it looks very intimidating. Ihink if I went on it it I would love it I just ahte the anxiety whn in line and on the lift hill. Any tips???

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  7. This has been a really helpful post, because I was terrified of coasters until I was 20! I started facing my fears and riding last year at Busch Gardens Williamsburg, and this year at King's Dominion. I've gone from chicken to coaster junkie in that time. My advice is to get some info about the ride before you get on it. Read reviews, learn how it works if you like. Sure, nothing can really prepare you for the forces you will feel, but it does help to learn as much as you can. Tell yourself "Look at all the people getting off the ride. They're fine, see? The ride isn't going to hurt you" Also, I find that if you can make yourself wait in line and get fastened in the seat, than the hardest part is over. Tell yourself, "No backing out now, so just sit back and enjoy the ride!" After you facing your fear on one ride, you will hopefully have a good feeling of accomplishment that should help you feel braver about facing new ones! Thanks to the Coaster Critic for a great blog too! Love reading your reviews and planning my next coaster conquests!

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  8. I am somewhat guilty of the first tip. Anytime my friends chicken out on rides I make fun of them and really try to force them on the rides. Although I do say alot of tips to them like the chances of dying and that the rides are inspected every day. I don't want them to miss out. I don't have that problem anymore because my method worked. Almost all my friends love roller coasters now. One of my friends puked on his first coaster and won't go on anymore coasters, and wont even go to an amusement park now though. But most of my friends love to go to amusement parks and ride roller coasters.

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  9. Well, my 1st roller coaster was Dragon Challenge at Islands of Adventures and Rockin' Roller Coaster at Hollywood Studios. When I went on it, I was actually holding on to the holding bars and half of the ride I had my eyes closed, later I just opened my eyes and found out that everything was O.K ….. it was in 5th grade. Last year I was in 7th grade and I chickened out to go on Dragon Challenge!!!!! I couldn't believe it!!!Now i'm in 8th grade and i'm going in Oct. 29 but I want to ride it without chickening out!!!!

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  10. …My daughter, however, has informed me on the basis of POV viewing that she's never going on an inverting coaster, and if she doesn't change her mind, that's OK. They just aren't for some people.

    Loops are interesting, though–I was terrified of the *idea* of them before I had actually ridden one, but, in my youth, when I finally worked up the courage to ride the good old Loch Ness Monster at BGW, I was surprised to find that the loops were the least scary thing about the ride! Big drops and big airtime always unnerve me a least a little, but, somehow, loops and other inversions are just fun, not frightening. I think I just get more of a scare from negative Gs than from visual discombobulation.

    (Which is my one quibble with the Critic's Thrill Scale: to me, old-timey woodies (class 2) are scarier than simple steel loopers (class 3)! But this is a subjective thing that will vary from person to person, so I don't suppose it's a legit objection.)

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    • Good point on the quibble. I think I created it that way because of the reactions that I've overheard thousands of times in queues from people wondering if a ride "went upside-down" or not. It seems to me that the average park-goer puts loopers on a higher intensity scale than even an intense woodie from just the looks of rides. Of course, this isn't always accurate, but the scale's meant for the general coaster riding public and I think it works that way. Good point though, I can see what you mean completely. Thanks for the comment.

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  11. Yeah, maybe if you're at the point of realizing that airtime can be scarier than loops, you know too much about coasters to really need the Thrill Scale…

    I always appreciate it when knowledgeable people are willing to reach out to the general public in that way!

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    • Thanks Matt. I've always tried to make that a goal for the site. To bridge the super geeky and the general public as best I can.

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  12. I actually for over my fear or roller coasters by getting on a big ride first (: I had only been on small coasters like (the mummy at universal studios) but I was always terrified of speed and drops so when we went to six flags for grad night my best friends made me get on Tatsu first and I worked like a charm ! Every other ride has been breeze. Went to Knotts berry farm last week and I got on ALL of the roller coasters 😀

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  13. Hey my girlfriend is deathly afraid of rollercoasters, and NOTHING I say can convince her to try one. It’s really disappointing to me because I’d love to take her to theme parks to ride all the awesome coasters with me. Is there anything I can do to change her mind?

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    • Sorry this is almost a year too late, but, tell her that you are more likely to be struck by lightning while driving than to be killed on a rollercoaster. Also tell her every element and explain them in each coaster. And that a huge ammount of people have been on it and have never gotten killed.

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  14. Okay so im going to great adventure this weeked with mah uncle who makes me go on i just dont know how to overcome this i like have anxiety attacks

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  15. My first coaster was actually a probably 30-foot tall wooden coaster. I was in elementary school when I rode it, and from there I slowly, very slowly, grew used to over 200-foot tall coasters with inversions.
    The thing I’ve noticed about coasters is that every time I rode one with a specific trait, that trait never terrified me again on other coasters. For example, if I went on a loop, loops didn’t seem threatening anymore. By eventually riding hyper coasters (coasters that basically are extremely large and fast without inversions) and then small coasters with inversions, I was mentally prepared for any coaster, since I had experienced every trait (with the exception of standing up. That sill scares me a little).
    So I would say that if you are scared of a specific coaster, analyze just what is scary about it. Is it the inversions? Sheer size? Huge speed? The launch system? The noise? Your position? Just ride coasters that touch those specific fears and soon you adapt to every trait, leaving you without fears for stepping onto roller coasters.

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  16. I’m 11, I was scared until this year. I went to six flags great adventure for the first time go the season and I wa with 3 kids tht didn’t like rides and 2 others tht did. Now, I didn’t want to be the loser not going on so I forced myself on every single ride! And now I’m glad I did I love coasters now!

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  17. I do have fears of roller coasters, but even if I go on some other rides, I get really nervous. There’s this ride called, ” Goliath” at sixflags over georgia, but I want to go on it, but I don’t know if I’ll have the strength to do so. But I made a meme to myself: if you survive Goliath you can survive the other rides.
    P.s, Goliath is the tallest ride there

    Reply

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