By Kate Alexander
WASHINGTON – Several classic amusement rides accumulated the most safety violations in state inspections over the last two years, according to a Capital News Service analysis of amusement ride inspection records.
The Zipper registered 113 safety violations in 87 inspections conducted during 1999 and 2000. The ride, which features 12 rotating cages connected to a boom that is also spinning, has been a must-have ride for any carnival since it was introduced in 1968.
The Scrambler, Tilt-a-Whirl and the Ferris wheel also ranked at the top of the list for violations, but like the Zipper, they were also among the most common rides in the state.
While go-carts are not as ubiquitous as the classics, some establishments in Maryland that feature the carts were cited for violations disproportionate to their inspections.
Craig Lowry, the state safety manager who oversees the inspection of amusement rides, explained that go-cart companies are not necessarily flagrant violators of safety regulations — rather, the high rate of violations stems from the nature of the ride. While the whole attraction is considered a single ride, each car is inspected individually thus violations can add up quickly, he said.
The occurrence of safety violations does not indicate that rides are unsafe, Lowry said, but shows “that we are needed and we are a necessary item out there” to ensure safety for all riders. He noted that all violations must be corrected before a ride can earn its yellow-and-black certificate of inspection.
Under Maryland’s Amusement Ride Safety Law, amusement rides and attractions erected permanently or temporarily at carnivals, fairs and amusement parks must be inspected by the state. Those inspections are overseen by the commissioner of labor and industry, who is also responsible for the inspection and certification of elevators, dumbwaiters, escalators and moving walks throughout Maryland.
Fixed rides, like those at Six Flags America in Largo, are inspected annually, in addition to spot checks. Temporary rides at carnivals must be inspected every time they are erected, even if they just move across the street.
Rosedale Amusement, for instance, has two traveling carnivals of 38 rides each and their calendar this summer includes stops at county fairs in Prince George’s, Charles, St. Mary’s and Calvert counties. Their rides will be inspected at each of those stops.
Over the last two years, state inspectors have visited Rosedale carnivals over 700 times during the season. In addition, 18 of the carnival company’s rides underwent “strip-down” inspections during the off-season, when they are taken apart and examined piece by piece by the state.
To do that examining, Lowry has six people full-time for nine months of the year.