Summer has kicked off and many Oklahoma families are making plans to take their children to local, or distant, amusement parks or water parks.  Such outings can make for lifetime happy memories.  But there are risks that families should be aware of and guard against before they head off.

First, amusement park rides can be dangerous. There’s no easy way to know whether a particular ride was properly built or properly maintained. Failure to properly install or maintain a ride can be the basis of a lawsuit.  But there are a few things to do that can keep your kids as safe as possible.  

First, follow all the rules. Yes, that’s what you’d expect to hear from a lawyer, but this is one of those instances where the rules were designed to prevent you from needing to hire a lawyer!  

Make sure that:

  • Your child is neither too big nor too small to ride. Follow the park’s sizing requirements.
  • Use the restraints available. If the restraint does not fit your body, ask for assistance or do not ride.  If the specific restraint has some kind of problem, make a report and don’t ride in that seat.
  • The directions from the attendants are important, even though many people tune the messages out. Staying seated until the ride is all the way stopped is for your safety. The other instructions are equally important. 
  • If a child does not want to ride, do not make them. Yes, it’s awkward to have to split up the family, but dealing with emotions draws attention away from safety.  Make other arrangements.
  • Make sure your kids follow the rules. I know, I know, especially tough with teenagers but that’s exactly why you have to preach safety.

Second, parks are kid magnets. And anything that draws kids also has the risk of drawing child predators. This is not a situation limited to one park.  Cedar Point – probably the world’s capitol of rollercoasters – has had this issue. But so have many other parks.  

While state laws typically prevent registered sex offenders from going to parks or playgrounds, many predators have not yet been caught and so they do not have to register. To protect children in this situation, it is really important to have “eyes on” all day long. If your kids are a little older, traveling in groups is much safer than in ones or twos.

Finally, Koller Trial Law has handled more than one child sexual assault case where a trip to a favorite amusement park was used by the abuser as a way to “groom” the children. Kids love going to these places and the perpetrator wants children to associate happy feelings with the perpetrator. The abusers in these situations were trusted leaders of kids’ activities. Remember, the biggest danger is not from “strangers” – it is from people you and your kids know. So before agreeing to a chaperone taking a group of kids off by themselves, you might be better off agreeing to go also.

Koller Trial Law is here to help. We all want to have fun with our families this summer. Staying safety aware may help ensure that the only memories you come home with are the happy ones. Have a great summer!

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