If there’s one thing I’m going to defend, it’s the right of American children to go out and die or injure themselves in whatever way seems best to them. Whether we’re talking about alcoholic energy drinks, or dangerous playground equipment, I’m not a fan of trying to legislate away childhood behavior. You shouldn’t sell kids a bag of glass, but we have fairly robust tort and consumer protection laws to weed that kind of stuff out.

Certainly, at the point when a child — or God forbid an adult — comes upon a giant roller coaster that does loops at 90 mph and says, “Oh, yeah, that looks perfectly safe,” I’m not sure what kind of “regulation” we’re supposed to be going for. If it crashes, you’ve got a tort action. If it doesn’t, you can thank whatever God you pray to and maybe next time take your ass to the bumper cars.

That stance puts me on the opposite of the newly elected junior Senator from Massachusetts, Ed Markey…

While Massachusetts senior Senator, Elizabeth Warren, desperately fights for sensible regulation of Wall Street to protect millions of American consumers from losing their life savings in complicated financial transactions, Markey has decided to use the considerable power of his office to fight the roller coaster industry. Because apparently every time a vacationing dumbass goes flying off a contraption designed to trick your mind into thinking it’s going to die it’s a national tragedy. From the Huffington Post:

U.S. Sen. Edward Markey is calling for a set of national safety standards to cover rides at amusement parks following the death of a woman who fell from a roller coaster at a Six Flags amusement in Texas.

Markey said families on summer vacations are assuming what he called a huge risk because of the lack of federal regulations…

He said families who visit amusement parks in other states should be confident that all rides meet the same federal standards.

Come on. First of all, if you go to Coney Island and you think everything there is built to the same standard as Disney World, you are a rank idiot and you’re lucky to escape the Cyclone with just some splinters and a tetanus shot. Imposing the same federal standards on small-time operators of amusement parks around the country as one would on mega-corporations like Disney and Six Flags is not only debilitating to those small-time operations, it also assumes that Americans are incapable of acting with a modicum of risk awareness when they make the choice to hop onto a ride.

And speaking about assumption of risk, it’s not like roller coasters exist in an unregulated no-man’s land of where simply by purchasing a ticket you waive your right to safety. That’s what tort law is for! If the roller coasters are maintained negligently or designed problematically or operated recklessly, you can still sue. Roller coaster operators win nothing from rides that kill people — except perhaps a certain cache among idiot thrill seekers who themselves probably aren’t the people who are most in need of federal regulatory protection.

Amazingly, this war on roller coasters is a long standing issue for Markey. I’m about to quote the National Review positively now, so bear with me:

Markey, his House website confirms, has a bee in his bonnet about amusement parks — one of my great loves in life — and, in an attempt to remove its sting, “has introduced legislation in every Congress since 1999 to restore full federal oversight to the rides that Americans enjoy every day.” Translation: The federal government currently has no authority to regulate amusement-park rides, and Markey thinks that they should take it.

Markey found his eccentric calling during a horrifying but statistically aberrant week in 1999 during which four people were killed in amusement-park accidents. Drawing on his unholy blend of ignorant outrage and unwavering belief in the federal government’s capacity to fix all ills, the congressman immediately began agitating for federal oversight of all “fixed-site amusement rides,” blaming the tragedies on the increased speed, height, and intensity of the nation’s roller coasters.

The thing is, roller coasters are faster and higher and more “intense” then ever before. They are also more safe! The Consumer Products Safety Commission says that the “annual number of injuries on fixed amusement-park rides is less than that for children’s wagons or for beach chairs or folding lawn chairs.”

Leaps in computer animation and testing means that the newer, higher, and faster coasters are designed and tested on a laptop instead of in a lab. We’re living in a golden era of rides precisely because we’ve figured out just how fast we can go safely.

It’s one thing for a random congressman to have a pet issue that he slams over and over like a child who just finishes a ride and screams “again, again.” But Ed Markey is a U.S. Senator now. Maybe he needs to stop with the Mickey Mouse issues and move onto an adult project.

Sen. Markey: Better oversight for roller coasters [Huffington Post]
Ed Markey’s Peculiar Crusade [National Review]


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