It’s summer, and for many, that means time for cherished family traditions like a trip to the amusement park. Kids of all ages enjoy taking in the fun, sun and thrills. Days like these make for fond childhood memories.

Yet rides today aren’t what they used to be. Modern parks have moved away from modest wooden rollercoasters and slow-moving Ferris wheels toward increasingly hair-raising rides that push the limits of gravity – and, sometimes, safety.

Understanding the risks

Shocking fatalities happen at amusement parks every year. Last summer’s headline-grabbing tragedy – the death of a 10-year-old boy on the world’s tallest waterslide (which has since been slated for demolition) – vividly illustrates the danger.

The regulatory framework for amusement parks isn’t as robust as most people assume. Federal law doesn’t establish rigorous overarching standards. Instead, it’s up to each state to enact and enforce safety regulations.

Some degree of risk is unavoidable. Even with regular inspections, conservative height and weight requirements and well-trained staff, no ride is 100 percent safe.

How to keep your family safe while still having fun

So how can you and your family avoid becoming a headline? You don’t have to steer clear of amusement parks entirely. Instead, follow these tips:

  • Only go to well-established, reputable amusement parks. Portable rides – such as the traveling carnivals often found at local fairs – are more likely to have equipment problems and a history of safety violations.
  • Don’t let your kids try to cheat the weight and height requirements. If they’re on the edge, err on the side of safety and don’t let them ride.
  • Keep an eye on the attendants. Are they paying attention to what’s going on? Do they check to make sure the safety bars and belts are secure?
  • Be aware that preexisting health conditions – such as heart problems or prior neck injuries – can make it dangerous to participate in certain rides. If in doubt, check with your doctor first.
  • If your kids haven’t been exposed to intense rides before, take it slow. Start out on a gentler ride to see how they handle it. Don’t force or pressure your kids to go on rides beyond their comfort level.
  • Teach your kids the importance of
  • Coach your child on what to do in the event that they start to panic. Tell them to focus on taking deep breaths and warn them never to attempt to get out mid-ride.

By following these tips, you can help ensure that your day at the park is unforgettable – for the right reasons.