DEC. 12, 2007 - INDUSTRY INSIDER SPEAKS OUT ON ROLLER COASTER LOOPHOLE

Former Amusement Park Industry Executive Calls for Support of Markey Amendment, Vote Scheduled Tomorrow

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A former senior executive in the amusement park industry has stepped forward in support of closing the dangerous safety loophole created when the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) was stripped of regulatory authority over fixed-site amusement park rides. Representative Edward J. Markey (D-MA) has introduced legislation every Congress since 1999 to restore CPSC’s authority over fixed-site rides. Today, Rep. Markey released a letter from Jim Prager, a former industry senior executive and board member of the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA), the trade association of the amusement park ride industry. In his letter, Mr. Prager expresses his support for Rep. Markey’s efforts.


Rep. Markey said, “Every summer, when children are killed or seriously injured on amusement park rides, concerns are raised about the safety of these rides. But as the weather cools, so does Congress’s interest in restoring federal oversight over amusement park ride safety. Congress is preparing to pass comprehensive legislation to reform the CPSC, and now is the time to restore the CPSC’s authority to ensure that rides at parks are safe.

“For too long, Congress has ignored the roller coaster loophole, preventing the CPSC from investigating accidents on thrill rides that hurtle children at speeds approaching 100 miles per hour makes no sense. The CPSC lacks the authority to even compel park operators to share information about an accident with operators of the same ride in other states! This makes no sense whatsoever.”

Mr. Prager, who was closely involved in the successful efforts to exempt fixed-site amusement rides from CPSC jurisdiction in 1981 and again in 1984, states in his letter that “The cost-cutting of the last 25 years has reduced the industry capacity for safety. Amusement park companies and parks are today more likely to be run by financial wizards or sports marketing gurus than industry professionals. The argument that fixed-site attractions have sufficient incentive to be safe because of the attendance decline potential in reaction to adverse publicity has been muted by the consolidation of the industry and the international draw of its biggest parks. The potential of adverse publicity in Kentucky did not prevent last summer’s tragic accident.”

“Insurance programs mandated by states or maintained by the operating amusement park companies are often touted as assuring ride safety but many of these programs have gaping holes rendering the programs essentially meaningless. Some state licensing or inspection programs were created to serve not the public, but the industry, providing an illusory aura of safety,” Mr. Prager noted.

“I now believe that I was wrong 25 years ago and that the industry should be regulated,” added Mr. Prager.

“As a former industry executive involved in the successful effort to exempt fixed-site rides from CPSC authority in 1981 and again in 1984, Mr. Prager’s comments should be a clarion call to raise awareness about the need to close this dangerous loophole now. Until now, the industry line has been that federal oversight is not needed, but as Mr. Prager observes, self-regulation and a patchwork of state regulations are not enough to prevent tragic accidents from occurring,” Rep. Markey said.

The nation’s leading safety agency, the CPSC, oversees the safety of carnival (“mobile”) rides, but is prohibited from overseeing the safety of park (“fixed-site”) rides. Rep. Markey has been working to amend H.R. 4040, the Consumer Product Safety Modernization Act, to include language from his bill, H.R. 2320, the National Amusement Park Ride Safety Act, that would close the fixed-site ride loophole. Rep. Markey’s amendment would allow the CPSC to perform its intended mission by restoring it’s authority to:

1. Investigate accidents;
2. Develop and enforce action plans to correct defects; and
3. Act as a national clearinghouse for accident and defect data.

Rep. Markey’s efforts have been endorsed by Consumers Union, the Consumer Federation of America, the National SAFE KIDS Campaign, Saferparks.org, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group and Kids in Danger.

Mr. Prager’s letter can be found HERE.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 12, 2007

CONTACT: Jessica Schafer (Markey), 202.225.2836