A Retrospective Study of Amusement Ride Restraint and Containment Systems: Identifying Design Challenges for Statistically Rare Anthropometric Cases

Paula M. Stenzler, Old Dominion University


The intent of this project was to conduct a retrospective study of amusement ride restraint and containment systems’ failures to identify the challenges associated with existing design criteria to safely accommodate statistically rare groups that fall outside amusement industry standards. Innovations in ride technology provide an opportunity for injuries to occur if restraint and containment systems cannot properly accommodate unique patron anthropometry. It is paramount to understand how anthropometric features contribute to the patron’s ability to defeat ride restraint and containment systems. A systemic perspective was used based on industry accident data to frame the problem associated with restraint and containment systems failures. This project examined how ergonomics, applied across anthropometric characteristics, affected guest safety, how cognitive ability influenced patron judgment, and how non-compliant patron behavior increased the risk for injuries. This retrospective study governed data management efforts that collected, organized, and evaluated accident data which yielded measures for patron characteristics, ride features and accident events. A design methodology was developed that incorporated statistical tests that established group differences between the project accident data and industry control data. Chi-square and Fisher’s Exact Tests were used to determine statistical significance for ride and patron categorical variables. Independent tests for physical limitation, cognitive ability and behavior showed a positive association for type of failure mode. A Kruskal Wallis non-parametric test for the mean age across ride types was performed that showed a positive association. A logistical regression model was constructed combining predictor dummy variables for anthropometric mismatch, diminished capacity and behavior for the binary dependent variable for not-secured or ejection/fall failure mode. The outcome of this project produced retrospective statistical data and provided a forcing function design guidance matrix to overcome amusement ride restraint and containment design challenges associated with unique patron anthropometry.