Have Amusement Parks Gone Too Far in Imposing Restrictions for Ride Safety?

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The Importance of Ride Safety

Ride safety is obviously a top priority for amusement/theme parks.  There have been numerous instances of loose articles on rides hitting riders and causing personal injury, with cell phones being the primary culprits.   Although I’ve never seen anyone get hurt I’ve witnessed several incidents during which unsecured items came flying off El Toro and seen the paraphernalia that ended up on the tarpaulin  under Talon’s track.  Whenever I find myself sitting next to someone who pulls out a cell phone on a roller coaster with intense G forces I feel apprehensive about the possibility that my seat mate will lose control of the device and end up doing some serious damage.

Since taking up roller coasters as a hobby I’ve invested a lot of money in cargo shorts and pants with multiple zipper pockets to secure my personal items.  This was done for both safety and convenience, as it enabled me to ride without anything coming loose and obviated the necessity of storing things in a ride locker, for a fee at some parks.   So for the past seven years I’ve been riding with all of my gear and I frankly don’t see anything wrong with this.   Apparently, neither did anyone else, as I was never challenged by park security or ride attendants until quite recently.

New Restrictive Ride Policies

Much to my consternation, this season Six Flags Great Adventure instituted a restrictive ride policy prohibiting all personal items on Kingda Ka and cell phones/keys/wallets on El Toro.  (Last year the policy for El Toro was that riders with personal items in zipper or button pockets were good to go.)  I suspect that this came about as a result of an incident last summer during which a young woman had her front teeth knocked out when an unidentified object struck her on El Toro.  As horrific as this was, I was not at all happy when informed by a security guard at Kingda Ka that I would have to empty my pockets and place the contents in a ride locker or leave them with a non-rider in order to ride.  I tried to plead my case, pointing out that all my stuff was secured, to no avail.  It was either empty my pockets and pay for a ride locker or not ride.   I did it that one time but on subsequent visits skipped this ride because with all the junk stashed in my pockets it simply wasn’t worth the hassle.   And the irony is that while I was an easy target because it’s glaringly obvious that I have stuff in my pockets, a number of people managed to slip past security at the entrance to Kingda Ka with their cell phones.
Great Adventure - Loose Articles Sign - Kingda Ka

I was similarly taken aback on a recent visit to Luna Park when told that I would not be permitted to ride Thunderbolt – a coaster I’d ridden a number of times with my gear in zipper pockets – unless I gave everything in the pockets to a ride attendant.  Do the ride attendants and ride ops really think that anything is likely to come loose when the rider is trapped under a heavy metal lap bar that feels like a  15-lb. weight?  Of course they don’t think; they’re merely doing what they were told to do.  At least Luna Park doesn’t charge anything to store personal items, unlike Great Adventure.  If a park is going to impose these types of restrictions on riders, they might at least be accommodating enough to provide free storage.
Thunderbolt - Luna Park - On Ride Photo

The Middle Ground? – What is a Fair Policy?

OK, so I’m on a rant but it’s frustrating to encounter obstacles which never existed before.   It’s like having the rules change when you’re in the middle of a game.  And yes, I understand that the new rules are in place for a reason but there will always be exceptions.   Park guests who take appropriate precautions now find themselves having to pay for the actions of those who don’t.  So what is a fair policy?  The policies in effect at Hersheypark strike me as fair and reasonable.  On my recent visit one of the most intense coasters in the park had a sign in the loading area stating that loose articles are not permitted on the ride and another had a sign stating that articles not physically attached to the rider are not permitted.   To what extent these policies are enforceable is unknown but at least they’re moderate and supportable.

What’s your take?
Should park guests with zipper or button pockets be permitted to ride extreme roller coasters with their personal gear or should all personal items be banned?

In addition to being a coaster enthusiast, I'm a cat fancier, tennis player, film aficionado, baseball fan and former Scrabble champion. I work in the legal profession and do a lot of volunteer work for a local animal shelter. My first trip out of my immediate area to ride coasters was to Holiday World in 2011 and I got lost because I didn't know how to read a map. I learned pretty fast!

15 Comments

  1. I have called Great Adventure and 6 Flags corporate out on this. Thanks if it was going to be mandatory they should be more like Hershey and offer the lockers for free for the first hour. This new rule has been expanded to Joker now, and it has been said it will be park wide next year.
    It’s a stupid rule, but I understand their liability. But it could have been implement a little better and not weeks into the season and not at the entrance. It clogs up the entrance when people are told this at the last minute.

    Reply
    • Expanded to Joker? I didn’t realize that, as I skipped this ride on my last two visits. Yes, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it’s park-wide next year. It could have been implemented much, much better. As you say, it clogs the entrance when people are informed of this only at the last minute. There was a lot of confusion at the entrance of El Toro with people being turned away and having to wait to use the ticket machine that dispenses numbers for ride lockers.

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  2. I completely agree with you that this policy change is unreasonable. How are they even enforcing it – are they patting people down before letting them ride?? And are they forcing riders to leave their items in lockers before even getting in line, or do they have lockers near the loading platforms?
    I used to carry my essential valuables in a fanny pack, until most of the parks I visited stopped allowing those on rides, then I started using cargo shorts/pants. I’ve had to hunt high and low to find women’s cargo shorts with adequate pockets, and finally started buying REI Men’s cargo shorts. I’m not going to start paying for lockers every time I want to ride something.

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    • As to how they’re enforcing it, although I’ve given up on Kingda Ka for the time being – as that would necessitate taking a dozen items of my pockets and storing them in a locker – what they’re doing at El Toro is carefully screening people at the gate. They’re checking for contraband with the emphasis being on cell phones although as I stated, keys and wallets are similarly banned. The prohibition on wallets strikes me as the height of absurdity. Certainly I know that people carry wallets in any number of places but my wallet is always in a back zipper pocket so that I’m sitting on it whenever I ride! The ride lockers are outside the entrance and timed for two hours. As a result, when I went to the park last Sunday I rode El Toro multiple times in a short period to get in as many rides as I could before the locker timed out. Oh, and last Sunday they were actually issuing boarding passes at the gate, something I’ve never seen before. I thought that it might be a security issue but they were doing the same thing at the entrance to Nitro, which thus far has none of these restrictions. Agreed that finding women’s cargo shorts with adequate pockets is not easy. All of mine are Salomon Wayfarer shorts and pants, and they are not cheap. But they come with four zipper pockets and I thought I was good to go until this happened.

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  3. Last year, I visited Universal Studios in Florida and was pleasantly surprised to find FREE short-term lockers in addition to those you can pay for to rent for the day.

    Free Ride Lockers in Universal Studios: Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit, MEN IN BLACK Alien Attack, Revenge of the Mummy, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts

    Free Ride Lockers at Islands of Adventure: Dragon Challenge (had to walk through metal detector farther up walkway),
    Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, The Incredible Hulk Coaster

    Better yet, each of these locker areas is staffed with locker attendants who are quick to help when needed. Finger scans are used for identification and locker re-opening. A charge of $3 per half hour is added if elapsed time is more than the current wait time plus ride time plus a bit of additional time. The locker attendant can override fees for situations out of the rider’s control.

    As for practical shorts and pants … even pants with legs that can be un-zippered to make shorts! … I go with Columbia. As mentioned above, pricy, but up until now, a worthy investment.

    Love the video clip!

    Reply
    • Good to know and glad you like the video clip. Finger scan is a great idea, easier than having to remember a pin, which is what you have to do when you rent a locker at Great Adventure. Of course I’d rather not have to deal with this issue at all but the times they are a-changing.

      Reply
  4. I spend the money on an all day locker every visit simply because I feel better being able to stash my items and not having to bother with them while on the ride. (I’d like a phone / wallet locker just before the station so I can at least use my phone while waiting) I too utilize zipper pockets at those parks that permit it. BUT, as we go forward, More and More people don’t give a crap about rules, and Lie about everything (like the president does) and think nothing of it. I applaud GRAdv for making it mandatory on some of the more turbulent rides, and if they plan to ban it on other rides I’m fine with that. SURE I’d like free lockers, but, I have paid for the locker for my other stuff anyway, so big deal. lets just hope we don’t go off the deep end like Universal has….

    Reply
    • Different strokes. A couple of times I visited the park with someone who invariably carried a bag with all sorts of paraphernalia and didn’t mind paying for a ride locker or having to rush back to it before it timed out. That’s her choice; it’s not mine. It’s certainly true that many park guests have a complete disregard of the dangers they might be posing by taking loose articles on a ride but the new policies continue to annoy me in the extreme for the reasons stated. Even the little things are a nuisance. For instance, I wanted to get a photo of the boarding pass that they issued me at the entrance to El Toro but realized hey, can’t do that b/c my phone is in a ride locker. Can’t get a shot of the loading station for the same reason.

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  5. It is definitely quite the debate. For those enthusiasts who secure their items correctly, a new price is paid. Of course, some people are constantly looking for loopholes in the process in an effort to illegally record video on rides. Those few bad apples end up ruining it for the policy-abiding folks!

    Reply
  6. Hello! I’m actually a ride operator/attendant at a Six Flags park. In the three sides of the park that are split up, I’ve worked two sides of the park and I am certified for as many as 13 different rides in the park and I am a member of management. We have a lot of problems with keys and cell phones in the park, and we haven’t been able to solidify our policies yet. I have no say in ride policies or anything like that, I just have to make sure that my team members are enforcing the rules that we do have at our rides. It really stinks when people pull out the phones on the rides and we have to use the microphone to tell them to put their phones away. Sometimes people listen, and sometimes they don’t. The goal is to try and catch it and prevent the people from pulling their phones out in the first place. At our Six Flags park we have bins (lockers are available outside of the ride entrance for a small fee, but I don’t personally know anyone that uses them) and usually people bring bags with them. If they’re about to ride a coaster with a phone in their hands, I will tell them that they either have to put the phone in a secure pocket or place on their person, or place it in the bin/in their bag. Everyone is willing to comply typically. The times where phones get pulled out is when people have them in a loose or secure pocket and decide to take it out anyway. Some amusement parks have policies where they are able to stop a moving train on the lift for guest misbehavior such as cell phone usage and restart the lift once the phone has been put away, but that isn’t a policy at our park. I really wish it was sometimes. I think it’s kind of crazy that other parks are enforcing rules that phones and keys can’t even be in secure pockets. At one specific ride I work at, people unknowingly lose their keys, phones, and other loose articles under the ride that we aren’t able to retrieve until the end of the night. This is very inconvenient for guests, and I understand why some parks are making these kinds of rules to avoid that trouble in the first place, since it is for the guests’ own good in the first place; however, I understand how it is also very frustrating for guests and the concern that items could be stolen. I think guests should be able to ride with loose articles as long as they are secured. If they cannot be secured, they must go in the bins. People just have the be thinking ahead. Fanny packs and pockets are wonderful things! I’ve even seen some people stick them down shirts and leggings. Whatever works, honestly.

    Reply
    • Very interesting to get the take of someone who actually works at a Six Flags park!

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  7. I haven’t been to Great Adventure since this rule was instituted, but as a season-pass holder, I find it annoying. I get that phones are a serious problem, especially on the fastest rides like Kingda Ka and El Toro, but I can’t imagine why wallets are — as you say, people are usually sitting on them.
    The problem I have with Great Adventure’s rule is that the lockers are per-ride, and non-transferrable. It may only be a “small fee,” but there’s a dozen coasters in the park, and if I want to ride all of them, it adds up. I’d happily take my chances with a bin on the platform — which they have for the official sports-drink bottles, but nothing else. Or a full-day locker pass. Or a discount for season pass holders. If it’s for my safety, that’s fine; there’s proof that it’s necessary. But don’t turn safety into an excuse to soak me for a couple of bucks per ride.
    I was very surprised to find that Dollywood has similar signs. I had no idea whether Wild Eagle was intense or not, so I dutifully bought a locker and took everything out of my pockets. I was rather irritated to discover that the park wasn’t enforcing the rule at all, and Wild Eagle certainly wasn’t intense enough to need it. One good thing is that Dollywood’s locker purchase is transferrable to every locker in the park, all day, so when I rode Lightning Rod later, I took out everything, including my wallet. Probably not completely necessary, but I’d already paid for it.

    Reply
    • Wow, Dollywood too? Agreed that Wild Eagle is not sufficiently intense to merit these restrictions. As to Great Adventure, it’s supposed to be possible to purchase a transferable locker but when I tried that it didn’t work, so I ended up paying $8.00 to ride Kingda Ka and another dollar to ride El Toro.

      Reply
    • How do the transferable lockers work?
      I agree, there should be discounts for season passholders, or maybe just free mini lockers near the ride platforms, so people can have their phones while in line. I don’t see how they can justify requiring that we remove our wallets from zippered pockets. Besides, how do they expect people to buy overpriced drinks from vending machines in the lines if we have to leave all of our things in a locker?

      Reply
      • Haven’t figured out how the transferable lockers work, as they didn’t work for me. How indeed do they expect people to buy overpriced drinks from vending machines under the circumstances? Presumably they wouldn’t object to someone taking out a credit card and bringing it on the ride, as they obviously can’t object to someone taking the slip of paper containing the locker number on the ride.

        Reply

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