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Vote of the week: Should high-speed roller coasters provide goggles?

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Published: May 14, 2010 at 8:52 AM

I've been getting more interested in the Ferrari World Abu Dhabi theme park as it approaches its debut in October.

My son's a huge Ferrari fan and I've been following open-wheel racing since I can remember. (My uncle once crewed for Mario Andretti, and my father used to work in timing and scoring at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.) So you'd expect me to get excited about the marriage of racing and theme parks.

Abu Dhabi's not exactly in my neighborhood, so I don't know that I'll ever visit, but I am beginning to follow the park's development. One item which caught my interest was the recent announcement that riders on the park's signature Formula Rossa roller coaster will be required to wear goggles.

Wayne Meadows demonstrates the Formula Rossa roller coaster goggles
Ferrari World Director of Maintenance Wayne Meadows tries on the goggles. Image from the park's promotion video on Formula Rossa.

Formula Rossa will be an Intamin launch coaster with a top speed over 140 miles per hour. While most of Ferrari World is located indoors, the park's roller coasters will travel outside the enclosure, into the sandy Arabian Peninsula desert. High speeds + blowing sand = need for goggles.

I haven't been to the Middle East, but I have been on more than a couple roller coasters where goggles might have made the ride less painful on my eyes. Which gets me thinking: Should other theme parks require goggles on their outdoor roller coasters? And if so, how fast does a coaster have to go before goggles should be provided?

Let's assume for the sake of this argument that the park can keep the goggles clean and clear. And that there'd be no additional charge for them. Vote below for the top speed over which you'd prefer to have goggles, or, if you don't think coasters should require goggles, select that option.

I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments. Have a great weekend, and thanks for reading Theme Park Insider!

Readers' Opinions

From Tracy Bates on May 14, 2010 at 9:18 AM
I don't think it should be required, but I've worn safety glasses on roller coasters for years. (The sun glass variety of safety glasses, not the birth control variety.)

I almost got hit in the face with someone's camera once and the guy next to me on Sheikra caught a pigeon halfway through the ride, so I figured a little eye protection isn't a bad thing.

From Jack Curley on May 14, 2010 at 9:22 AM
I don't think that riders should be required to wear goggles (Except in cases like Abu Dhabi). I like the goggles they have on this ride, though. They're not too bulky, and they look comfortable. A pair like that would be easy to carry around for people who feel they need protective eyewear.
From Meagan Evanoff on May 14, 2010 at 9:25 AM
Here you go: a girl commenting on a main article on the blog! Let's do this. :)

This made me think of the front seat on my fave roller coaster, Maverick at Cedar Point. You know what you get if you open your mouth to scream?

Dead bugs on your teeth. EWW!

I don't think it's the speed (70 mph), Millennium and TTD are way faster, so I can only think it's the zigzag motion and crazy turns that catches the bugs off-guard?

Anyway, there are a couple other factors for your goggles poll (motion type, font seat or not).

I don't wait in line for the front seat on Maverick, anymore, btw. :) Maybe I will for photo ops this summer but, uh, I'll keep my mouth shut.

From 97.97.150.135 on May 14, 2010 at 9:46 AM
In the case of a 140 mph roller coaster-- yeeeeeeaaaaah, I think i'd require the goggles. I see WAY too many openings for frustrated/grumpy/lawsuit-happy guests to argue if goggles weren't required.

I really want to visit that park. I don't know anything about nice cars generally... but I KNOW Ferraris are sexy and expensive (I only know because my old Barbie dolls drove a Ferrari).

I'm imagining myself on that insanely fast coaster, sporting some nice "shades" (Goggles) and flashing a smile for the photo at the end.

From Robert Niles on May 14, 2010 at 9:47 AM
It's no different, really, than being handed a pair of 3D glasses when you go see a movie. People are used to this, and I think it'd help ratchet up the excitement a bit in the station as you get ready to launch. ("Wow, this coaster's so fast they're giving me goggles!")

Cleaning costs would provide the biggest reason why parks wouldn't do this. But when you're a Ferrari-branded theme park (especially in a location such as Abu Dhabi), you can't afford *not* to cover every detail.

From Pyra Dong on May 14, 2010 at 9:48 AM
BTW... I submitted the "anonymous" comment about goggles SHOULD be required because of grumpy/lawsuit-happy guests
From Phillip Florendo on May 14, 2010 at 11:22 AM
Fabio would approve.
From 24.188.126.248 on May 14, 2010 at 11:28 AM
I wouldn't mind being given the option to wear goggles, especially on some of the higher speed coasters. Don;t think it should be mandatory though. A few years ago I was on Rolling Thunder at SFGAdv and something flew into my eye and scratched my cornea. I actually had to have minor surgery to get a small piece of metal removed from my eye.
From Nick Markham on May 14, 2010 at 11:40 AM
I have to say if people need to wear goggles they are not fit to ride a roller coaster. Period. I am sorry Robert, but I just think the idea is absurd.
From Bob Miller on May 14, 2010 at 12:44 PM
My way of thinking, you can get hit at any speed, 20 mph or 140 mph. The impact with said object would increase with velocity, making the damage worse.

So how much damage would you get from being hit by a brick at 20 mph and getting hit by that same brick at 140 mph? Robert, your good with numbers. I say, let the rider beware, no goggles.

Once while riding my motorcycle, I passed a flat bed semi-truck. A wheel threw up a rock and hit my full face shield and split it right in half. It was at about 55 mph and I hate to think of what would have happened to my face had I not had the shield on. I was lucky, I didn't even crash from the sudden impact itself.

From 169.253.4.21 on May 14, 2010 at 1:12 PM
I am happy with a pair of my own shades. If goggles are required, then I have to take my shades off and put their scratched up, ugly buy eyes on. No Thanks. Optional goggles yes!
From Marc Ricketts on May 14, 2010 at 2:48 PM
It would be nice to have the option, but I think requirements should be rare. I just wish Cedar Fair parks wouldn't make me (sometimes)remove my glasses even when strapped to my head.
From Melissa Donahue on May 14, 2010 at 3:53 PM
I have to say that I'm in favor of the "riders should never be required to wear goggles" option, but it probably makes good sense to wear them on high-speed coasters. My fastest coaster ride has been on Top Thrill Dragster, and during the majority of the ride, I'm either closing my eyes or squinting, anyway! I guess that's my natural reaction when shielding my contacts from dust and dirt.

This is probably the "OCD" in me, but I shudder to think that I'd be required to wear goggles that have been worn countless times before. I know... I know... They are thoroughly cleansed and sterilized, but there's just something about it that grosses me out if I think about it too carefully. I wear the darn 3-D glasses, but I don't like it...

From Larry Zimmerman on May 14, 2010 at 4:52 PM
All it takes is one bug in the eye, and you're spending the rest of your life with monocular vision. If you're in the front row, glasses or goggles should be mandatory!
From Anthony Murphy on May 14, 2010 at 5:59 PM
If you need goggles to go on a roller coaster, that ride is going too fast!
From Mike Gallagher on May 14, 2010 at 6:16 PM
Marc Ricketts,

That's a good point. I've been asked to remove my glasses (strapped on) a handful of times over the last several years. Once on FireHawk, once on Kingda Ka, and the others escape me right now. I refused to remove them, and the ops didn't push the issue. I work in a performing arts center. One of my managers is intimately familiar with the intricacies and enforcement of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA.)
I wonder..and I'm speculating here, playing devil's advocate..if forcing a guest to remove his/her spectacles would be a violation of that act.

As far as the question goes, I'm in the camp that says goggles should not be REQUIRED on any coaster, but because Ferrari is in the desert, the sand is a hazard. That may be a case where the goggles could be offered as an option.

From Tim W on May 14, 2010 at 7:20 PM
They shouldnt be required but im sure there would be some people who would appreciate the googles and would use them.
From Wok Creative on May 14, 2010 at 10:57 PM
I also think that more than a requirement, optional would be good. I wear glasses, but my eyes still water from the wind on coasters, so I wear my sunglasses to prevent the eye watering. It even enhances Space Mountain and helps against the strobe with the picture taking at the end.
From Joshua Counsil on May 15, 2010 at 2:08 AM
I answered that goggles should not be required. Why?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=juFZh92MUOY

From Michael Owen on May 15, 2010 at 4:35 AM
I've done quad biking and other such outdoor things in Dubai and trust me, at that speed you need something to protect your eyes from the sand.

I'm not too sure how much of a problem it's going to be over in Abu Dhabi. I've visited the site of the new park and it's on a man made Island just off the coast which will most likely be covered in grass or something along those lines, reducing the impact of the sand when on the outdoor segment of the coaster.

From Doug Kelley on May 15, 2010 at 8:58 AM
This is the same mentality that has kids wearing helmets while riding bikes and not being allowed to climb trees. We've gone a little nuts with safety and we're raising a bunch of pansies.
From Derek Potter on May 15, 2010 at 1:46 PM
Even at 60 mph, someone could be hurt (See Fabio). We've had 60 mph coasters for about 75 years...haven't really had mass instances of eye injury. Sure there have been cases, but not enough to merit handing out more potential flying objects. Many people wear sunglasses on the rides now, and even those receive close scrutiny on the ultra high speed rides. In the case of a 140 mph ride in the middle of the desert and the blowing sand, I understand. Nobody wants sand in the eyes. Give them the goggles. If they don't want them, they sign a release. Most rides are in a pretty controlled environment though, and aren't in such climates that would require goggles.

Personally, I always have a pair of sunglasses on when I ride to keep the wind out of my eyes. I've gotten some bug guts on them before while riding, but only in rare occasions.

From Shane Miller on May 15, 2010 at 9:19 PM
I think if a human being ever has to wear an additional item to ride a roller coaster, then that roller coaster should be one HELL of a roller coaster.
From 72.241.160.80 on May 16, 2010 at 1:15 PM
well the fastest ride i have been on is Top Thrill Dragster (one hell of a ride btw) and its "offical" speed is 120 in 4 seconds. But Caranddriver actually hooked their car testing equitment on the Dragster and they clocked it at 0-120 in 2.8 seconds, and actually a top speed of 124 point something..(60 in 1.2 seconds) and i have never felt the need for eye wear on the Dragster. but maybe if we are getting to 140+ mph then there might be a need.
From Eric Fisher on May 16, 2010 at 4:23 PM
Having had an idiot hit me in the face with a cookie on Big Thunder Mountain at Disney World a few years back...I think safety goggles are a great idea.
From 69.225.192.193 on May 17, 2010 at 11:06 AM
at 140mph, i would wear the goggles, especially if there's a sand storm outside, LOL
From 97.102.211.157 on May 18, 2010 at 1:52 AM
All I can say is that as a current cast member, and motorcycle enthusiast, I have been wondering why it is not already a policy that is in place.

Granted when you are Rockin the Roller Coaster with AeroSmith, or being banged around in the darkness of Space Mountain, you are indoors, but who is to say that some object may not come off the little girls head in front of you? Hair pins and other "ornaments" can easily become projectiles and at even 60 mph they can do severe damage to an unprotected eye.

When riding a motorcycle here in Florida, you don't have to wear a helmet, and of course their is no seat belt law that speaks to bikers, however it is MANDATORY that you wear eye protection. So one day I experimented and staying on the back roads in my neighborhood I wanted to see what speed I would reach before I felt I was endangering my vision. That speed was 45 mph when a small bug caught me. Mind you at that speed I was already having to squint just because of the wind, but it seems an easy, cheap, measure of protection for theme parks to provide eye protection for their riders.

From 151.190.254.108 on May 18, 2010 at 9:24 AM
Hmmm I never thought about wearing goggles I guess it could be needed in some situations as you had mentioned.

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