Roller coasters are popular attractions at amusement parks all over the world, and patrons flock to them for thrills, especially in the summer. Some deaths and serious injuries have been associated with them, however, raising concerns about their safety, especially for fragile and elderly riders. The relative lack of regulation of the amusement park industry has also been a cause of concern for some lawmakers, who would like to see more oversight of rides to prevent injuries.
Statistically, a roller coaster is not very dangerous, especially if a rider is in good physical condition. Amusement park patrons are far more likely to die in accidents on the way to the park than they are to suffer injuries on a ride, assuming that the equipment is well maintained and run responsibly. Parks run many tests on their equipment to ensure that it is safe for use, including measurements designed to determine the g-forces that riders will be subject to. These facilities like their patrons healthy and alive, so they try to build rides that are fun and safe.
There are, however, a few instances in which riding a roller coaster may be unsafe. For all riders, riding equipment that is not well maintained is risky. Before riding, it is always a good idea for riders to inspect the equipment as much as possible. They should look for signs of rust, poor repair jobs, or dirt, suggesting that the roller coaster is not well cared for. When the rider straps in, he or she should make sure that the straps are not faded, repaired, or frayed, and if a restraining bar is used, he or she should make sure that it locks into place snugly, leaving no room to wiggle or slide. Small children are especially at risk of falling out of cars with such bars, due to their small size, so their guardians must make sure that they are completely and safely restrained.
Roller coasters can also be dangerous for people with heart conditions. The sense of excitement that accompanies a ride is also accompanied by an elevated heart rate, which can cause an arrhythmia or myocardial infarction, better known as a heart attack. People with known heart conditions should talk to a medical professional about riding any rough ride, because they may be unsafe.
In addition, roller coasters have been linked with the appearance of blood clots on the brain, called subdural hematomas. A subdural hematoma occurs when blood vessels on the brain burst and the blood starts to clot, and it can be a serious health problem. This occurs very rarely, but it is linked with rides that subject patrons to high g-forces or instances where a passenger was whipped around as a result of poorly secured safety equipment. Individuals who take blood thinners should avoid such attractions for this reason, and anyone who experiences repeated headaches after a ride should mention it to a healthcare provider.