After several terrifying accidents on thrill rides this summer, the California Senate voted 30 to 6 today to create the first state inspection program for theme parks, including the authority to idle dangerous rides.
The action marks the first time in a quarter-century that both houses of the legislature have passed a measure establishing state oversight of theme parks.
The bill could land on Gov. Gray Davis's desk next week, after the Assembly, which passed a draft of the bill 60 to 15 in June, approves some minor changes made by the Senate. Davis (D) has not stated a position on the legislation.
Until this year, the theme park industry successfully blocked all efforts at regulation, arguing that major attractions have a good safety record and can monitor the rides themselves.
But a fatal Christmas Eve accident at Disneyland raised public awareness that California is one of a dozen states that neither regulate parks nor require operators to report accidents. But it has the worst death rate in the nation.
A spate of summer accidents at amusement parks across the nation--including one in Paramount's Kings Dominion in Virginia, several in California and an accident that killed two people on a New Jersey roller coaster--gave the proposal added momentum.
On Aug. 22, a 12-year-old boy fell to his death from the Drop Zone Stunt Tower ride at Paramount's Great America Theme Park in Santa Clara, Calif. The next day, five people were injured at Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park, Calif., when a decorative wooden board on the GhostRider roller coaster broke and hit five riders.
Days later, a corkscrew roller coaster at Six Flags Marine World in Vallejo, Calif., stopped suddenly, leaving 28 passengers dangling in midair.