What's the real story about roller coaster shutdowns?
March 16, 2017, 11:48 PM ·
How many times have you watched a TV news story about riders "trapped" on a "broken" roller coaster or theme park ride?
Like a car chase on an LA freeway, TV stations can't seem to resist showing live video of people sitting on trains that are stopped on lifts 100 or more feet in the air. Breathless reporters try to create a sense of danger and urgency, but actual theme park insiders know that the riders are in about as much peril as the viewers watching from home.
That's because rides shut down because their safety systems are working, not because they have failed. Now, Village Roadshow Theme Parks in Australia has produced a video explaining why ride shutdowns are not the perilous situations that many news reports try to make them out to be.
(If you're not familiar with Village Roadshow, it operates Warner Bros. Movie World, Wet'n'Wild, and Sea World on the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia. Note that Village Roadshow's Sea World - with a space - is not affiliated with the American SeaWorld theme parks. Nor is its Wet'n'Wild water park affiliated with the recently closed Wet 'n Wild Orlando park, though Village Roadshow Theme Parks does own Wet'n'Wild Las Vegas in the United States.)
Now, just because a stoppage isn't dangerous doesn't mean that it isn't inconvenient for riders involved. A shutdown that wastes a couple of minutes of a rider's time is no big deal, but one that leaves a visitor hanging for hours when he or she could be riding anything else in the park is a major annoyance that the park needs to address. That's why parks typically offer ride skip passes or even free admission tickets to people who are left stuck on stopped rides for a significant period of time. But that's intended as compensation for the inconvenience of lost time that the visitor paid for, not some preemptive settlement for endangerment.
Theme park fans aren't masochists. No one wants to get hurt. I think that many fans understand that they're in more danger on the road driving to or from a theme park than they are on any ride in the park. And that small subset of regular park visitors who welcome an evac do so because it gives them that chance to see behind the scenes of a beloved attraction.
But most of us are happiest when everything runs at it should, when parks operate their rides to full capacity, and we can get on as many rides as possible during a visit — without any delays, downtimes, or news helicopters buzzing overhead.
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