With summer almost here, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has stepped up its effort to get state governments to draft and enforce safety standards for amusement park rides.
Since the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions got Congress to pass an amendment last year, the agency has been barred from regulating rides in permanent amusement parks. Each year, about 8,000 people are injured in ride accidents and about seven to 10 die.
The ride controversy started on the final Sunday of the 1979 Texas State Fair in Dallas when two gondolas fell 85 feet, killing one man, crippling a teen-age girl and injuring 18 others. That accident sparked the CPSC's interest in amusement parks, and it began investigating the accident and proposing safety standards.
That worried the park owners, who hired a Washington lobbyist and began contacting their congressmen. With the help of Rep. Thomas A. Luken (D-Ohio), whose Cincinnati district is headquarters for a company that owns four major amusement parks, and Rep. William E. Dannemeyer (R-Calif.), whose district includes Disneyland, the CPSC was directed to keep its hands off everything but carnival rides that are moved from state to state.
The commission was so busy trying to keep from being abolished by Congress that it did not fight the change, CPSC officials told the Los Angeles Times recently. When the amendment passed, CPSC's probe of the Dallas accident and its proposed rules were scuttled.
A few weeks ago, CPSC Commissioner Sam Zagoria testified before a Texas House subcommittee about the need for tough state inspections for amusement park rides. He also suggested that the states should do more to monitor the traveling carnivals because of the "limited resources" of the commission.
Citing Maryland as an example, Zagoria told how state inspectors prevented a carnival owner from operating several rides that they considered unsafe. When the carnival moved to Pennsylvania, which does not have an inspection program, a teen-ager was killed on a ride the Maryland inspectors had cited, Zagoria said. Nineteen states have adopted inspection programs, the CPSC said; Virginia has not.