Beware of safety risks at summer carnivals and fairs

Carnivals and fairs have been part of summer for just about as long as anyone can remember. Unfortunately, a lot of carnival owners and the operators of many of the rides don't do everything they can and should to ensure the public's safety.

The public is seldom aware of the risks until there's a horrific accident. Because these carnivals and fairs are mobile, they rarely get the same oversight that's given to permanent parks.

What can you do to protect yourself and your family? Use the following as a safety guide for better decisions about traveling carnivals and fairs.

1. Look the ride over carefully.

For that matter, take a good look around the carnival as a whole before you decide to ride anything. Are the rides generally in good shape? Peeling paint, faded colors and spots of rust are all signs that someone isn't really taking care of the rides. If you doubt the safety of a ride, don't get on it.

2. Look the operators over just as carefully.

Who is operating the ride? Does he or she seem more interested in his or her phone than the ride? An operator's eyes should always be on the ride itself when it is in motion, not staring elsewhere, just in case there's a problem that requires an emergency stop.

If the operator seems uncertain of the controls or inattentive, steer clear and find another attraction to visit.

3. Look for safety gear on the ride.

All rides should have some kind of safety harness, and they need to be adjustable in some way to the bodies of the people in the seats. Over-the-shoulder harnesses are necessary for particularly physical rides, not just a plain metal bar that comes down.

4. Look at the safety rules and follow them.

There should be clear safety rules posted by every ride. If a ride indicates that children are restricted or people under a certain height are unable to ride, follow the instructions and don't try to slip past the operator (especially if the operator seems willing to turn a blind eye to the violation of the rules).

Remember, you're always your own best advocate when it comes to personal safety. While it's always possible to seek compensation after an injury at a carnival, it's much better to avoid accidents in the first place.

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