Visitors to Canada’s Wonderland or other amusement parks, especially parents, who question the safety of their iconic thrill rides should be somewhat relieved to know that many injuries are not the result of malfunctions, but rider errors, according to a recent study led by Kathryn Woodcock, an associate professor of Human Factors and Safety at Ryerson.

“Most riders behave appropriately,” says Woodcock. “But it is common to see both adult and child riders sitting improperly, standing on a moving ride, or even trying to outsmart restraint devices.”

The study utilized official investigation reports of 37 amusement ride accidents in California, with the team noting the human or technological errors recorded. Human errors were further divided into “physical execution slips” (ex. tripping on a step), mistakes, and lapses (“omitting an action when an action is needed,” says Woodcock).


While the reports blamed riders for most errors, Woodcock believes many accidents could be avoided if rides were designed with greater emphasis on what she calls “human factors engineering.

“Most engineering training doesn’t cover human factors in depth,” says Woodcock. “New graduates tend to believe if a piece of equipment can be used safely, it will be used safely, so long as people are given instructions and buttons have labels.”

Ride safe

Keep these tips in mind when riding to help keep you safe:

Be mindful of your surroundings. Many riders focus on screaming, raising their arms, or holding loose objects, and fail to notice the ride’s rules.

If supervising children, make sure they understand basic safety, such as why they shouldn’t stand in the middle of a ride, or reach at something interesting-looking.

Do not attempt a ride if you don’t fit the minimum requirements. Those warnings are based on factors the rider might not know about, says Woodcock: “If you see other people disregarding the rules and getting off the ride smiling, it does not mean the same action will be safe for you.”

Latest From ...