Use your head, theme park fans: Never take a phone on a roller coaster

June 9, 2017, 10:46 AM · We get it. You love your phone. With every major park now offering an official app, your phone can be the way you get into the park, manage your reservations, find your way around, and track the wait times for all your favorite rides. It's how you take pictures, snap, and keep in touch with your friends. Phones are great.

But, for the love of all that is holy and for the sake of everyone else in the park, please don't take the darned things on a roller coaster.

Look, if you want to take your phone on It's a Small World — either to record the one-trillionth on-ride video of the attraction, or just to play slyly some music through your earbuds in order to avoid having to listen to that song again — go ahead. Take selfies with every character in the park, if you want. (Just, please, no sticks.) Be that person who Instagrams everything you order to eat or drink.

But, please, no phones on roller coasters, or any other high speed, volatile thrill rides. Here's your latest horror story:

I was at SFGAm today, and my friend and I were on Goliath back row. Directly In front of us were two young women. During the ride, a phone flew out of some lady's pocket (or hand) during the airtime hill, and it hit the head of the girl in front of me. During the rest of the ride, she was bleeding very badly, and my friend and I had to cover our faces. On top of that, when we arrived at the station, there was panic among many guests, and they had to shut down the ride for a good while. The poor girl had to be heavily bandaged on her head, and strolled out on a wheelchair.

Okay, it's a Reddit post, so veracity's a coin flip. But I would need no more than one phone call to a publicity rep from any park with a major roller coaster to verify a similar event. That's why I stand up to applaud theme parks that do this:

And this:

Because I would rather endure the hassle of storing my stuff in a locker and going without my phone for an hour in line, or even sit on a lift of a stalled roller coaster for 20 minutes, than take an iPhone to my face at 50 mph.

So even if a park doesn't make you go through metal detectors at a coaster's queue, stow the phone anyway. And that means leaving it at the station, in a locker, or at the very least inside a closed pocket where it can't fly out during the ride. That goes for anything you're carrying with you in the park, too.

Inconvenience? I'll tell you what's inconvenient — missing the rest of your day in the park because you're heading to the first aid center or hospital. Or if that doesn't move you, how about having to go back to the store to replace your phone?

Stow the phones, enjoy your ride, then get back online and tell us how awesome it was... after you're done. Have a great summer, Theme Park Insiders!

How to Stay Safe on Vacation:

Replies (26)

June 9, 2017 at 10:55 AM · I admit when I last went to Universal Studios, I was a bit thrown at the demands of locking stuff up before you got into the line. But upon getting on their rides, I realize how easy it is for stuff to go flying off (Hulk, Dragons, even Harry Potter) and thus needed. Blame it on the rise of You Tube with folks posting their videos of rides, just need to be careful.

At least Disney banned selfie sticks, something that really was a serious danger on a ride.

June 9, 2017 at 11:19 AM · Life time ban is the only appropriate measure for these people.
I wish theme parks wouldn't encourage the use of phones, it such a sad sight seeing people walking in amazingly created areas glued to their screens.
June 9, 2017 at 11:20 AM · I got hit with a phone on El Toro last year (nothing major, it just hit my hand and landed in the bottom of the car) and now they have a strict policy about cell phones on rides.
June 9, 2017 at 11:40 AM · I found a cellphone on my seat on Indiana Jones Adventure in Tokyo DisneySeas. In fact, the
attendant at the exit had both hands full of cellphones.
June 9, 2017 at 1:40 PM · Cell phones should be banned. Period.

Sent from my iPhone.

June 9, 2017 at 1:57 PM · A few years ago, I (an out of town visitor) was at Disneyland. We met up with my cousin, a local AP, for an afternoon. She spent the entirety of PotC texting. It stunned me, and distracted me from the ride. Here we are in the middle of this incredible ride, and she could hardly care.
I second OT. The entire point of themed entertainment is to *be there*. That is why you pay hundreds of dollars to be there instead of just going to the movies, or even reading a book. Phones have their advantages, but they distract from the main purpose of the parks: to savor the environment.
June 9, 2017 at 2:48 PM · I am caught in the middle here b/c while I find it deplorable that people take unsecured cell phones on roller coasters, I see no reason why people such as myself, who keep all personal items secured in zipper pockets, should have to store their phones in a ride locker and pay for the locker. Interestingly, because of incidents such as one on El Toro in which a young lady got her front teeth knocked out last year, Six Flags Great Adventure recently instituted a policy prohibiting cell phones and keys on El Toro and all personal items on Kingda Ka. What I find ironic about this is that it inconveniences people who do care about ride safety while allowing others to do as they please with potentially disastrous consequences. A security guard outside Kingda Ka insisted that I empty my pockets and place the contents in a locker or hand them to a non-rider so that is what I did. And guess what? When I got into the ride queue a number of people ahead of me in the queue were texting away on their cell phones. I asked a couple of them how they got past the security guard and they said that he never noticed. So unless someone has obviously bulging pockets, such as I do, the policy is essentially unenforceable unless park security takes extra precautions. I must say that they checked guests out very carefully last Sunday before allowing them into the queue for El Toro. However, the fact of the matter is that a significant number of park guests don't care whom they jeopardize and the only way to guarantee everyone's safety is indeed to install metal detectors outside every high speed high thrill ride, probably impracticable for most parks. And I still think that it should be OK to me to ride with my stuff zipped up tight. Why do you think I invested a lot of money in multiple pairs of cargo pants and shorts with zipper pockets? It was strictly to visit theme parks; I never wear them anywhere else.
June 9, 2017 at 6:38 PM · I agree that phones should never be out during rides. But, I also think this is yet another area where parks rip us off. After paying far too much for a theme park ticket, I shouldn't have to pay even more money just to rent a locker in order to ride specific attractions. That's why I'm generally okay with leaving my things on a platform. Sure, it's risky, but it beats paying for that locker. Any coaster with metal detectors, necessary though they may be, is frusturating to me, since I always wear pants with zipper pockets to theme parks specifically to keep my phone and wallet safe.
June 9, 2017 at 7:00 PM · The year was 2015. The ride El Toro. Could not figure out why every one was leaving the queue as I was entering. Got to the platform. Notice man on the platform crying bent over. He was hit in the face by a young ladies cell phone. Broken nose at least. Blood on his shirt, train and platform. They had to halt operations while they de-contaminated the train and platform. Its just not phones. Water bottles too. Superman at SFNE. I almost got taken out when someones water bottle got some "airtime". Yeah.
June 9, 2017 at 8:04 PM · Lockers are usually free at the attraction. You don't have to pay if you get your things out within the time limit.
June 9, 2017 at 8:31 PM · On the bright side, a cell phone to the face could be an added level of immersion on a VR coaster.
June 9, 2017 at 9:34 PM · I haven't heard this Great America story until today...weird...
June 9, 2017 at 9:43 PM · People don't care about anything but themselves and people are obsessed with/addicted to their cell phones. Most people anymore have to have the darn things with them every waking moment.
June 10, 2017 at 12:49 AM · If everyone just used a wrist strap or something else to secure a phone or camera to their body/wrist, there wouldn't be any problems/incidents. Taking pictures/videos/selfies is something the majority of people do nowadays, so it's better to find a way they can do this safe than to try and ban it. Banning something has never worked and just enforces the risk of accidents. And theme parks can make an extra buck by creating these straps themselves with their logos. It’s a win-win.
June 10, 2017 at 5:45 AM · No one buys straps, though. I work at a park and work it into my coaster spiel. Glasses must be secured with a sports strap. Sports straps can be purchased at many of our shops... But people don't want to pay to wear their glasses on the ride. They'd rather complain loudly that another nearby park doesn't enforce this rule, we didn't enforce this rule last year (we did), etc. Also wrist straps and lanyard holders for phones are not allowed on our rides either, so that argument doesn't work.
June 10, 2017 at 8:50 AM · You shouldn't take your cell phone to a park at all because it distracts you from paying attention to where you are and having fun while you're there. And, let's be honest, like most Americans, you probably have nothing important to say anyway.
June 10, 2017 at 11:28 AM · @Gabriel Schroll - "Cell phones should be banned. Period.

Sent from my iPhone."

I completely agree..

Sent from one of my four iPhones

June 11, 2017 at 1:00 AM · I'm a proud non-owner of an Iphone or any other damn so-called smart phone :)
June 11, 2017 at 1:52 PM · Personally, I would like to see more parks adopt Holiday World's system. Instead of having metal detectors or lockers outside the ride, Holiday World has lockers right on the station platform. When boarding, you stick everything in a locker, then take the key with you on the ride. Afterward, just unlock the locker, grab your things, and leave it for the next person. They are free to use during your ride, and due to their location you are not trapped in a long line without your phone. I'm also not 100% sure about this, but I believe it is against park rules to even carry a phone or camera on the rides with you and you can get in big trouble if you're caught with one.

Loose articles on a roller coaster or other high intensity thrill ride pose a serious risk, and I definitely think parks need to be better about monitoring them. While metal detectors may be a bit extreme (after all, I've never lost anything by simply using a buttoned pocket) and I disagree with upcharge lockers at rides (it should be free while you ride), I would like to see a policy that if you're caught with your phone out on a ride it is an automatic ejection and ban for the rest of the season. If you want to film on rides, get permission from the park and use proper equipment, as otherwise you are just putting hundreds of others at risk.

June 11, 2017 at 11:43 PM · Disney no lockers, no crazy searches & metal detectors at the rides. Universal is overkill and will hurt their business.
June 12, 2017 at 8:44 AM · I am totally fine with parks forcing guests to place items in their pockets into a locker, though I do think those with zipper, button, snap, or velcro pockets (and slim fanny packs) should be given some latitude. The issue I have is with parks that charge guests money to use lockers while forcing guests to empty their pockets. Instead of a safety rule, the process looks more like a cash grab.

However, even at parks where lockers are free, I think guests should be allowed to keep wallets or something containing an ID in their pocket. Not sure if they're still doing it, but at Rip Ride Rocket, USF was forcing guests to turn out their pockets and remove everything. When I challenge the request on the basis that I wouldn't even have an ID on my person, it fell on deaf ears. That's unacceptable IMHO, as a guest should be able to identify themselves if for some reason their ID gets trapped in a locker.

June 12, 2017 at 10:21 AM · Agreed that it's unacceptable to force park guests to surrender ID's. My wallet is always in my back zipper pocket so that I am always sitting on it while riding; consequently, the possibility of its coming loose is absolutely nil unless 1) the zipper breaks and 2) I'm riding something with more ejector airtime than anything that has yet been built. Of course this too fell on deaf ears when I tried to plead my case to a security guard at Kingda Ka. By all means lockers should be provided free of charge. Although Alton Towers does have lockers for hire, they also have free baggage storage areas at most rides, whereby the rider is given a wristband to reclaim his or her property. This is the same system that operates at Luna Park/Coney Island, quite successfully I might add. Six Flags parks would be a lot more hospitable if they were to offer this option.
June 12, 2017 at 11:12 AM · I feel it's totally fair for parks to profit from guests bringing bags of who knows what into the park, so charge people for large (8"x8"x16") lockers. However, those guests with just a phone, some sunglasses (or prescription glasses), their keys, and a wallet should have somewhere secure those items for free since the park will not allow those objects onto the ride, yet are essential items for people to carry with them. If you're a SF pass holder, you paid extra for a card (or barcode on your phone) to get unlimited visits to the park, now they want to charge you every time you ride to store said card/phone in a locker?
June 12, 2017 at 12:03 PM · Ocean Park in Hong Kong, and LEGOLAND Florida, have open cubbies at certain rides, directly at the boarding platform -- no hassle of a separate area with electronic lockers. They're unsecured, and signs disclaim the park's responsibility for lost articles, but it seems to work for most people.

This is more effective on some rides than others. At Ocean Park, the cubbies at one coaster are on the exit side of the platform, so you have to step through to deposit your articles before seating yourself, thereby slowing the process. But at the chair swing ride, the cubbies are inside the fence, so you pass them going both in and out, and only one batch of riders has access.

June 13, 2017 at 10:53 AM · I've caught someone else's phone on a roller coaster. I guess that makes me a +1 on the items lost vs items gained.

Still...I think loosing your phone and other items is punishment enough, as well as being held liable for your stuff injuring other park guests.

It's called "personal responsibility", in case you need a keyword to look up this novel concept.

June 13, 2017 at 5:40 PM · Universal's Harry Potter rides (Forbidden Journey and Escape from Gringotts) have lockers that are free to use for the duration of the ride. It's a great idea. The only objection I have is that the fingerprint scanners that lock the lockers aren't all that reliable--people have a lot of trouble with them.

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