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Amusement Rides Knock Some Patrons for a Loop

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But don't overlook those recent declines, say representatives from the amusement industry, who contend that incidents are declining because safety is at an all-time high.

"Amusement parks have a long history of providing safe, family entertainment," Bret Lovejoy, told the Associated Press Thursday. He is the president of the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions. "There is virtually no safer form of recreation, and the 2000 figures further confirm that."

Lovejoy said more than 315 million people visited U.S. amusement parks last year, accounting for 3.2 billion rides. According to the association, the likelihood of being seriously injured on a ride is about 1 in 22 million and the chance of being fatally injured is 1 in 1.5 billion.

Despite those odds, accidents do happen.

This month, 22 people were sent to hospitals, mostly with minor injuries, after two cars collided on the Superman Ride of Steel roller coaster at Six Flags New England in Massachusetts.

In July, one roller coaster rear-ended another in a New Hampshire amusement park, causing five people minor injuries. Less than a week later, a sideways-spinning ride called the Chaos fell from its spindle at a Michigan amusement park, trapping some riders for hours and sending 31 people to hospitals. Most were released within a day.

Gary Slade, publisher and editor in chief of Amusement Today, a monthly trade newspaper for the amusement and water park industry, says the problem is overblown.

"I think it's been a relatively quiet, normal year for the industry," he told WebMD soon after the accidents happened earlier in August.

"When you look at the total number of rides across the nation, at the total number of parks, total number of visitors to these parks, it's mind-boggling how many people are riding rides and how safe they are," he said. "The numbers of people getting injured are far less than numbers getting killed on our nation's highways, train derailments, plane accidents, and boating accidents."

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