Rides scary, but state's timeliness even worse
Some amusement park rides are even scarier than they are meant to appear because of the Pennsylvania government's spotty record in seeing to timely inspections that are required by state law.
A detailed report by PublicSource, an independent investigative journalism group from Western Pennsylvania and a news partner of Times-Shamrock Newspapers, owner of The News-Item, found broad inconsistencies in documenting inspections of dangerous amusement rides across the state. It also encountered a lack of full accountability from the Department of Agriculture, the state agency with responsibility for seeing to legally mandated regular inspections of more than 9,300 registered rides.
For example, when PublicSource asked the department about the lack of reports from some amusement parks for 2012, the agency staff contacted the parks. Some of those operations submitted reports dated for 2012, which the department time-stamped as received July 2013, without making any effort to determine if the inspections actually were conducted and, if they were conducted, why the reports were not submitted within 48 hours, as required by law and regulation. Officials of the Department of Agriculture's Bureau of Ride and Measurement Standards refused to answer numerous questions.
Several amusement park owners told PublicSource that they conducted the required inspections and filed the required inspection reports, but the bureau can't prove or disprove the assertions. The bureau suggested that some reports might have been lost in the mail - really? - but it clearly conducted no follow-up to determine why required reports did not show up.
Fortunately, there is a solution. Amusement rides are regulated by 50 states under 50 different standards and inspection protocols, even though safety should be a uniform priority.
U.S. Sen. Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts proposed, when he was in the House, that ride inspections be turned over to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
"A baby stroller is subject to tougher federal regulation than a roller coaster carrying a child in excess of 100 mph. This a mistake," Markey said.
Indeed it is. Congress should correct it.