Approximately four deaths annually in the United States are associated with roller coasters. Although traumatic injuries resulting in the deaths of roller coaster patrons tend to receive the most media attention, they only represent one quarter of all fatalities. Approximately half of deaths associated with roller coasters occur from medical conditions in people without external signs of injury. The underlying cause of these deaths can be difficult to determine; however, a number of reports have documented similar, but non-fatal, neurological, vascular, and connective tissue problems related to riding roller coasters.8–15 The remaining quarter of deaths associated with roller coasters are occupational fatalities, which often receive limited attention.
The overall number of roller coaster related fatalities from this case series is larger than what has been previously reported by other groups.3 5 This is due to the use of multiple data sources for reporting and the inclusion of both deaths from medical causes without external signs of trauma and occupational fatalities.
The lack of an effective system to monitor injuries and deaths involving roller coasters is part of a larger problem. No single agency has responsibility for tracking incidents involving amusement rides. The CPSC has authority for tracking injuries to patrons of amusement rides that are mobile3 but does not have legislative authority to track incidents on rides at fixed sites. This is often the responsibility of state or local agencies; however, a number of states have no regulations or specifically exempt large facilities from review.8 Occupational safety and health agencies, either at the state or federal level, monitor work related injuries.
This approach to monitoring injuries results in a fragmented system that produces data of limited value from a public health perspective.
Quantifying the risk of death associated with roller coasters was not