13 Freaky Facts About Roller Coasters

Aug 1st, 2011

Whether it’s the mind-jarring twists and turns or the gut-wrenching vertical drops, roller coasters have a way of making us feel so alive and so close to death at the exact same time. These exhilarating scream machines are expertly designed and constructed with riders’ comfort and safety in mind, but this year’s growing number of roller coaster fatalities has led many to think otherwise. So, before you jump on the next loop-the-loop, test your knowledge with these 13 freaky facts about roller coasters:

  1. Approximately 4.4 amusement-ride fatalities occurred each year from 1987 to 2002

    The Consumer Product Safety Commission reported that from 1987 to 2002 there were about 4.4 deaths per year from mobile and fixed-site amusement rides. The Commission calculated this yearly average based on reports that there was an estimated annual average of 4.3 amusement ride fatalities each year from 1987 to 1998, as well as three deaths in 2001 and two in 2002.

  2. Six U.S. states do not have amusement ride safety laws

    Each state is responsible for creating its own safety regulations for amusement rides. Although most have safety laws and ride inspectors, there are currently six states (Alabama, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming) that do not have any ride safety laws enforced by the government. Therefore, manufacturers, ride operators and insurance carriers handle safety issues on their own, without oversee by a government agency.

  3. Approximately 1,181 ride-related injuries occurred in 2009

    According to the National Safety Council, there were approximately 1,181 amusement ride-related injuries in 2009. Even though 2009 had a significantly lower estimated annual attendance and annual ridership, there was still a high estimated number of ride-related injuries.

  4. The Kingda Ka roller coaster is 456 feet tall and goes 128 mph in 3.5 seconds

    It’s a freaky fact that Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson Township, New Jersey, has the tallest roller coaster in the world and the fastest in the nation. The 456-foot-tall Kingda Ka coaster reaches a record-breaking speed of 128 mph in just 3.5 seconds.

  5. The first lap bar was installed in 1907

    Before 1907, roller coaster riders were restrained only by a simple chain or strap that kept them in their seat. It wasn’t until Christian Feuchs, creator of the first high-speed, modern roller coaster called Drop the Dip, decided to add the first-ever lap bar to a coaster. This life-saving invention has forever changed the safety and engineering of roller coasters.

  6. The Takabisha roller coaster is 141 feet tall and has a 121-degree freefall

    Japan’s Fuji-Q Highland Amusement Park is now home to the world’s steepest roller coaster. The newly-built Takabisha roller coaster takes riders up 141 feet and sends them plummeting on a 121-degree vertical drop.

  7. Some states do not have an age requirement for amusement ride operators

    Depending on where you live, 16- or 17-year-olds may be in charge of operating the amusement rides you’re on. Although many states have implemented a minimum age for ride operators, others have no age requirement and will hire inexperienced teenagers to do the job. In addition to the age concerns, many amusement ride operators do not undergo any safety training because it’s not required by federal law.

  8. Japan has the only pedal-powered roller coasters in the world

    Okayama, Japan, is home to the only pedal-powered roller coaster in the world. The Skycycle ride lets pairs pedal the carts along a winding track that overlooks the very scenic Washuzan Highland Park.

  9. Steel Dragon 2000 is 8,133 feet long

    The Steel Dragon 2000 at Nagashima Spa Land Amusement Park in Mie prefecture, Japan, is the longest of its kind. Coming in at an impressive 8,133 feet long, the record-breaking roller coaster takes three minutes, 12 seconds to ride.

  10. Inertia would keep riders in their seats, even without restraints

    A freaky fact of physics and roller coasters is that inertia alone has the power to keep you in your seat during a loop-the-loop roller coaster ride. As a coaster car moves along a loop, the force of your acceleration and your inertia are strong enough to keep you in the car. Safety harnesses and lap bars are used for security purposes, but inertia is the natural and most powerful force protecting you on rides.

  11. Richard Rodriguez holds the world record for riding a roller coaster for 17 straight days

    For most people, it takes a lot of courage to get on a roller coaster, let alone ride it more than once! But that’s not the case for Richard Rodriguez, who holds the world record for riding a roller coaster for 17 days. In 2007, this thrill seeker completed a grueling 17-day stint of riding the Pepsi Max Big One at Blackpool Pleasure Beach in the UK. Rodriguez only took five-minute breaks each hour to change clothes, shower or eat a hot meal.

  12. Roller coasters are dangerous for some riders

    Even though the amusement park industry ensures roller coasters are safe for the majority of the population and enforce health warning signs when it may not be, there are several riders who are at risk for serious and even life-threatening injuries. Some of these at-risk riders are aware of their preexisting health condition and others are not. Although rare, brain injuries, heart failures and arrhythmias have occurred in roller coaster riders who took that potential health risk knowingly or not.

  13. Cannon Coaster was created to leap over a gap in the tracks

    Coney Island’s 1902 roller coaster creation was supposed to set new records for its daring and never-before-seen design. The Cannon Coaster was originally designed to jump over a gap in the tracks and land on the other side, but the plan proved to be impossible when the test rounds kept ending in crashes. Even though the test rides only carried sandbags, not humans, and the gap was eventually filled, it still gives people the willies to think about riding a coaster that jumps unprotected gaps.