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Group questions "link" between coasters and brain injuries.

Data used by Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) to support his National Amusement Park Safety Act may be highly questionable, says a statement issued by the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA). (9)

Markey's bill would grant CPSC jurisdiction over "fixed site" amusement park rides. (CPSC already has jurisdiction over mobile amusement park rides, but Congress declined in 1981 to give CPSC authority over the big theme parks. State and local government, plus insurance company inspectors and voluntary standards groups provide regulation for such rides.)

Markey and his colleague, Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.), asked the Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA) to form a "blue ribbon panel" to look at possible links between brain injury risk and the G forces of certain amusement park rides. (10)

Markey cited a "study" of 58 cases of brain injuries allegedly related to roller coasters over a 30-year period. The list of injuries associated with coaster rides that he cited actually covers 36 years and includes 11 alleged injuries in parks outside the U.S., says ATRA. According to a statement released Aug. 19 by ATRA, the study in question and its source, Dr. Claus-Peter Speth, are both suspect. ATRA called Dr. Speth a "controversial New Jersey pathologist."

While some in the media are labeling Speth an "expert," ATRA says Speth was convicted of witness tampering, in which he allegedly broke the neck of a corpse of a man who committed suicide in the county jail. ATRA said that the 1997 incident occurred during a visit to the morgue and was related to an attempt by the dead man's family to sue the county, claiming mistreatment. (11)

Further, says ATRA, many of BIAA's directors or advisory board members are also members, directors and officers of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America (ATLA), which is composed of attorneys who represent plaintiffs. (12)

ATRA further noted that the safety record of the big theme parks is still good. They say that, according to industry data, "approximately 320 million Americans visited fixed-site U.S. parks and attractions last year."

Further, ATRA says, 99.99 percent of those visitors experienced no ill effects from going on park rides.

The alleged G-force link to brain injuries from riding roller coasters prompted the state of New Jersey to mandate a limit of 5.66 Gs for amusement rides. But, according to an industry spokesman from the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA), none of the roller coasters in the state of New Jersey even approach such a G-force. Should such a regulation be enacted in other states, IAAPA says none of the existing coasters would have any trouble meeting the limit. (13)

Nonetheless, Members of Congress who ask for "blue ribbon panels" should be more cautious in selecting studies to cite when sounding public alarms. The industry association, IAAPA, does have one representative on the blue ribbon panel--Harold Hudson, an engineering expert on the design of roller coasters. He may be outnumbered, however, by other "experts" who are more likely to support the views of the BIAA.

(9) The American Tort Reform Association, founded in 1986, is a broad-based, bipartisan coalition of more than 300 businesses, corporations, municipalities, associations, and professional firms who support civil justice reform with the goal of ensuring fairness, balance and predictability in America's legal system (definition from ATRA's web site www.atra.org).

(10) See CPSC Monitor, Vol. 7. Issue 2, February 2002, "Markey, Other Legislators, Call on Expert Panel to Assess Amusement Park Rides' Hazards."

(11) "Amusement Park Ride Scare Pushed by Personal Injury Lawyers, Based on Hype, Misinformation and Zero Science," statement by the American Tort Reform Association, August. 19, 2002. The statement cites an October 27, 1998 article by the Associated Press regarding Speth's conviction.

(12) Ibid.

(13) Conversation with an IAAPA press spokesman on Aug. 28, 2002.
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Title Annotation:bill would grant US Consumer Product Safety Commission jurisdiction over fixed rides
Publication:CPSC Monitor
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2002
Words:638
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