Are Roller Coasters Safe In The Rain?

Are Roller Coasters Safe In The Rain?

The simple answer behind why amusement parks consider rollercoasters to not be safe in the rain is that they are merely responding to the potential for risk.

If you have ever been to an amusement park when a summer shower opened up, you know the chaos of people running for cover and all of the rides spontaneously shutting down.

While you might get lucky and be one of the people waiting in line under a comfortable structure designed to protect you from the elements, there is also the off chance that you might have to forfeit your spot in line in order to escape the treacherous storm when your favorite ride ends up closed until further notice.

After you have spent hours in line waiting to get on that one big coaster, you might be wondering what the big deal is and if rollercoasters actually can safely operate in the rain after all.

Though businesses are known for sometimes being overactive when it comes to customer safety, the safety level of rollercoasters in a rain storm really is a hot topic of discussion.

What people think will happen if you ride a rollercoaster in the rain

If you have ever attended elementary school, you have probably heard some wild stories about what happens to a rollercoaster during a rain storm.

The rumors tend to range from rollercoasters slipping off the tracks to people sliding out of their seats, and of the course the crowd favorite: the brakes on the rollercoaster give out and everyone crashes into a building and dies.

There are no lack of stories when it comes to the potential risks of riding a rollercoaster in the rain, but realistically the potential outcomes are a lot more about preventative measures and a lot less about the possibility that everyone on the rollercoaster is facing imminent death if the sixteen-year-old running the coaster sends it off one last time after a single drop of rain has fallen.

If anything, you might have noticed that rollercoasters generally don’t stop running until a message is sent out among staff to stop them, which might be a few minutes after the storm has actually started. 

Why amusement parks shut down rides in the rain

Though it is unlikely that a little rain is going to grease the track so severely that you might fly right off when you hit that big loop, the threats are actually present.

  • The biggest issue for rollercoasters during a rain storm is that rollercoasters themselves actually have a lot of sensors.
  • These sensors can be covered or even read incorrect signals when it rains, which can result in problems for the rollercoaster.

While it is unlikely that the sensors malfunctioning would lead to anything too catastrophic unless met with extreme circumstances, that isn’t to say that you might not get stuck upside down in the pouring rain waiting for the sensors to be clear enough for the ride to continue.

The best and worst part about rollercoasters is their complexity, so it is best to respect the process. In addition to sensors being thrown off, there is potential for there to be problems with the brakes.

orange roller coaster

While this is not an absolute guarantee, and while you are unlikely to watch a rollercoaster car fly through a building because of it, it can result in a jerky and uncomfortable finish to a ride that isn’t fun for anyone. 

Lightning

A major concern and what generally drives the decision to shut down these rides during storms is actually lightning.

As a general rule, you never want to be near a giant metal structure when there is lightning outside.

Metal acts as a giant lightning rod, and the last thing that you want is to be screaming your head off at the highest point of a rollercoaster when lighting strikes.

This could easily damage the coaster itself, but more importantly, the potential for you to be hit or hurt is just not worth the risk for any amusement park.

It isn’t so much about whether or not rollercoasters are safe in the rain, but rather a matter of applying common sense principles. Beyond that, there is the general fact that taking rain to the face at a high velocity simply is not at all a comfortable experience and should just be avoided at all costs.

The historical issues with riding a rollercoaster in the rain

As far as extreme tragedies caused by running a rollercoaster in the rain goes, there are actually no documented records of rain causing any serious consequences for rollercoasters.

Though this is possibly in part because amusement parks do take preventative measures to avoid any problems that might arise from running a rollercoaster in the middle of a downpour, the fact still remains that on record there is no evidence of anyone sliding out of a seat, cars slipping off of tracks, or brakes failings to work.

As a caveat to that, these things have all occurred with rollercoasters around the globe, but none of the documented cases seem to blame rain for causing these unfortunate events.

Conclusion

The lines at amusement parks can be absolutely killer, and it is understandably frustrating when you have been waiting for two hours to ride a rollercoaster that gets shut down because of a rain storm, but it truly is for the best.

wooden roller coaster

The precautions taken to ensure patron safety at amusement parks are in line because of the fact that a lot of these rides can put you at serious risk of injury if something does go wrong.

Because of this fact, it is important and understandable for amusement parks to go the extra mile to ensure that you have a safe, comfortable, and fun experience at the park.

In fact, on days when amusement parks get rained out, they have been known to give out passes to get back in on another day.

It might not be the perfect consolation to your day being ruined, but at the end of the day, at least you won’t be a barbecued human crisp stuck at the top of a rollercoaster loop.