Intensity of Motion and Emotion

Boy screaming on roller coaster

How Does a Ride's Intensity Affect Safety?

Intensity cannot be easily quantified, but it does relate to rider safety. Amusement rides are designed to elicit strong physical and emotional sensations. Most patrons tolerate those sensations without ill effects, but some patrons find they are unable to safely handle the intensity of a ride.

Intensity of Motion and Emotion

Amusement rides expose a wide variety of human beings to speed, acceleration, jerk, vibration, and changes in brain chemicals at levels that are not usually encountered in daily life. The experience of a thrill ride may be very different than the rider anticipated, and there isn't any way for a patron to stop the action once the ride is launched.

  • Fear, surprise, and unusual bodily sensations can make the heart race and the blood pressure rise or fall.
  • If the intensity feels unbearable to a patron -- especially a young child or a developmentally disabled adult -- the patron may react in a way that can cause injury to himself or others. Remember that adrenaline triggers the "fight or flight" impulse. Either course is dangerous on a speeding thrill ride.
  • Even if riders enjoy the physical or emotional intensity, the extra stress imposed on the body by a high-energy ride can exacerbate underlying physical illnesses or weaknesses. Back/neck injury is the most common example, and may occur in patrons who've never experienced symptoms of spinal trouble before. In combination with an underlying physiological weakness, the forces exerted by extreme thrill rides can break a human neck.

If You're Not a 170-Pound Healthy Young Adult, Choose Carefully

Full-sized amusement rides are designed for 170-pound young adults with average intelligence and good health. The farther you are away from that ideal, the higher your risk of illness or injury on amusement rides. Be extra cautious when choosing rides for children, patrons with disabilities or pre-existing medical conditions, overweight patrons, or older adults.

Special Note about Ride Intensity and Children

When choosing rides for children, look at the whole ride experience, not just the minimum height limit set by the folks who want to sell you tickets. Be conservative. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • If a child feels overwhelmed by the intensity of a ride, he or she may try to leave the ride while it's in motion. On rides without child-resistant restraints, this natural impulse can have tragic results.
  • Physiological changes triggered by extreme fear or excitement may cause illness or injury to the child.

If your child is younger than seven, is easily frightened, or has a pre-existing medical condition, use extreme caution when deciding whether intense thrill rides are appropriate.

Related Safety Tips

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Attention Matters and So Do the Rules
Beware of patron daze, rule fudging, wiggle worms and horseplay.
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Patron-directed Rides and Devices
Injuries are more common on patron-directed amusement rides and attractions.
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Patrons with Disabilities
When choosing rides for people with disabilities, be conservative and realistic.
Amusement ride inspection by New York Department of Labor
Equipment Failure
If a ride looks rickety or poorly maintained, avoid it.