Rollercoasters and Safety

Anyone who has been to a theme park knows that roller coasters are some of the tallest and most visible attractions. Visitors sometimes spend over an hour of time in line just to get thrown around a track for a minute or less. These machines serve only one purpose, to thrill humans out of their gourd with changes in acceleration, rotational inertia, as well as the speed and changing landscape.


As with any highly engineered ride, roller coasters have to be very safe or else they cannot typically operate. Parks will vary in the amount of effort they will spend on regular inspection, but the rides must be very safe to begin with in order to be built. As much engineering goes into safety features and fall prevention as they do in using changing velocities and directions to provide sensations.

More information on fall prevention


Building a Roller Coaster With Fall Prevention


All roller coasters built today are precisely engineered machines that begin with an extensive concept phase that is finally handed to engineers to decide what is technically possible. The earliest roller coasters were small and did not push the boundaries of sensory endurance. They were simply carts on wheels or tracks that were pushed up a ramp and allowed to descend under gravity. Not much precise math was involved, nor was safety standards.


Modern roller coasters are technical masterpieces that glide almost without friction along tracks and are hoisted with electric motors. Engineers must predict the limits of structural materials as well as what types of motion changes the body can endure without harm. The structure is often designed with computer software that can help predict the integrity of the structure.


Roller coasters were once built with a paper blueprint and a wooden frame. These are less common due to labor costs and safety concerns. Steel-frame roller coasters can endure greater pressures and achieve dimensions that are less feasible with wood. Steel structures are more rigid and appear more modern.


Safety When Building Roller Coasters


Safety and structural integrity are important when building a modern roller coaster. Since they are centerpiece attractions, they ideally last for decades once built. The first safety feature is that the train never leaves the tracks. It is hard to derail a train on tracks because the center of gravity is well balanced and the wheels fit into tracks rather than simply sit on top of them. Whenever the course changes direction, a plane is set to offset rotational inertia.


Not only is the train well connected to the tracks, but most of these rides physically restrain tourists. People are either discouraged from standing during the ride or else they are restrained from doing so by a metal safety bar. It is not unpleasant to be thrown against a restraint if something goes wrong, but at least the passenger is not thrown out.


Keeping Things Safe


The most important safety feature is good design, but this depends on maintenance. Some parks are notorious for not providing frequent inspection or maintenance, but good parks do this. Safety bars must be functional, and all the moving equipment must be oiled and undamaged. Tracks are mechanically simple but still need inspection in order to be safe. The good news is that roller coaster injuries are quite rare.