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How local attractions are deemed safe

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Updated: 5/02/2013 8:19 am

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- As the weather warms, more and more people head outdoors for entertainment, and in Florida that fun often includes trips to amusement parks or carnivals.

Action News went to the state's Bureau of Ride Inspection to find out how rides at these venues are regulated for safety.

We learned there are 190 registered traveling carnivals throughout the state.

[PHOTO GALLERY: BEACH BOULEVARD CARNIVAL]

According to a new study by the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, 4,400 kids are hurt on rides at carnivals and amusement parks each year.

We found 11 people from Northeast Florida were rushed to the hospital with a ride-related injury last summer, and already this fiscal year, 21 injuries are on record, up from 16 last year.

William Sadlier, Operations Manager for Hildebrand Rides, Inc., which is currently operating at the St. John's Square on Beach Blvd., says all 22 of his rides are in good working condition. His claim is confirmed by a state inspection that was performed prior to his show opening on Monday.

In fact, each time Sadlier sets up at a new location, the state looks at everything from electrical to mechanical. He's also required to keep a daily log of inspections by his staff.

"Every single ride has to go through a daily check ,every single day, and that's good for patrons."

Action News found large amusement parks must only pass state inspections twice a year.

"We operate 52 weeks a year, and are inspected almost as many times, from bolts and o-rings, to food service and training for our staff."

The state confirms most accidents don't occur at small carnivals like Sadlier's, but instead at go-kart tracks and water parks.

"That's where the user is in control," says Allan Harrison, a 20-year inspector and Bureau Chief of the state Fair Rides Division. "We usually find a rider didn't follow directions or listen to the operator and that resulted in their injuries."

But when equipment is deemed unsafe, Harrison says the rides are shut down until a second inspection can be performed. In addition, the state takes a close look at similar rides throughout the state to be sure the issue isn't reoccurring.

"We check our database and if more of those rides are in operation, we go make sure the same thing's not happening on those rides."

Harrison says the best way to avoid injury is to be sure you understand how a ride operates and what it could do to you physically.

"Watch it first and then decide if you want to ride. Take caution and don't be afraid to ask questions."

Patrons who see a concern at a carnival or amusement park are also encouraged to call the state reporting hotline at 800-633-3542.

Sadlier says he plans to operate his show through May 12 starting at 5 p.m. daily. He says a portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Jacksonville Fraternal Order of Police.

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