Q. I see that the fair at Pioneer High School is back in June. I am curious about how the rides there are inspected to make sure that they are safe.
A. Amidst the fun and excitement of a carnival, terrible things can happen. Rides are complex and are designed to provide thrills. Each year in the U.S. about four people are killed. The likelihood of an accident, though, is actually extremely low: Americans take about a quarter billion rides a year.
Inspections are an important contributor to this excellent safety record. The state licenses 900 rides, and their operators are required to inspect them daily; their work in turn is certified by inspectors commissioned by the State of Michigan. In addition, all amusement rides are inspected by state inspectors at least once annually.
A significant part of the inspection process consists of managing records and keeping track of where rides are. (Half of the rides inspected by the state are carnival rides that travel from site to site, often weekly.) Riders can verify that a ride has passed state inspection by looking for a 3×5-inch sticker affixed to the ride. This year’s stickers are blue. Last year they were green.