February 2000

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Tech News

Concession Go-Karts Standardized
After Request for Safer Controls

IN RESPONSE to a request for standardization from inspectors of concession go-karts, an ASTM task force composed of go-kart operators, manufacturers, representatives of the insurance industry, state regulatory agencies, and other members of ASTM Committee F24 on Amusement Rides and Devices, has drafted the Standard Practice for the Classification, Design, Manufacture, and Operation of Concession Go-Karts and Facilities. Under the jurisdiction of Subcommittee F24.60 on Special Rides/Attractions, the proposed standard is being balloted within ASTM.

Concession go-karts are self-directed racing vehicles generally operated in amusement parks at speeds averaging 15 to 20 mph, but can reach speeds up to 50 mph. Not connected to rails, they are patron-driven and fueled by electricity, propane, gasoline or alcohol.

Introduction of this popular attraction in amusement parks has tripled since 1990, says Task Force Chair Steve Hix, director of the International Recreational Go-Kart Association (IRGA), San Antonio, Texas. Although most concession go-kart tracks have historically been located in smaller family entertainment centers, recently many of the mega parks have added them, such as Cedar Point, Ohio; Six Flags Parks nationwide; Morey’s Piers, New Jersey; and Paramount Parks in North America.

There is a strong possibility that, when approved, the standard will be referenced in state laws. “There are probably 20 states that are eagerly awaiting the outcome of this ballot before they introduce or amend additional regulatory legislation,” says Hix. “They’d like to be consistent, as opposed to what we’ve got now, which is a hodgepodge of interpretation and application of amusement ride regulations.” A standard protocol for review and inspection of concession go-kart facilities would offer that consistency.

“It is not restrictive,” notes Hix. “We have kept a very keen eye on not inhibiting innovation, new products, or new methods. In the amusement industry, we like to give people the sensation of danger or speed while we actually control the activity. This standard should benefit operators and manufacturers who will now know what is expected of them.”

Classifications of various vehicles offered for public use to replicate motor sport competitive activities are defined in the draft standard. Covered are the design, manufacture, and operation of concession go-karts and their associated operating facilities where public or member use is offered for a fee. “The standard divides the areas of responsibility very well among manufacturers, people who design and construct go-kart tracks, those who operate them, and the patrons,” Hix explains.

As concession go-karts are patron-driven, a section in the proposed standard emphasizes patron responsibility. “The industry is having an increasing number of those types of activities which really push the line between what’s racing and what’s amusement,” says Hix. “Since patrons have control over the direction and the speed, they can hurt themselves or other people real quickly.”

Organized in 1990, the members of the IRGA developed the first standards and guidelines for the concession go-kart community and joined forces with ASTM Committee F24 in 1993. According to Hix, there were no standards when the IRGA began the guidelines development process. Many in the industry wanted to establish guidelines in order to decrease the disparity between regulatory agencies nationwide, a problem still faced today. Although some states have regulations governing concession go-karts, all state laws differ, and this causes problems for manufacturers. In states where there is little or no regulatory control, serious accidents have happened often enough that this activity has become a concern of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

“When we began, the industry was characterized to some degree as a bunch of shade-tree mechanics,” Hix concludes. “People running go-kart tracks were kind of outlaws. Now that this activity is growing bigger across the world, the safety and well-being of those who ride go-karts will benefit from there being an established and recognized method for the quality of manufacturing, for the design of the go-karts, and for operations.”

For further technical information, contact Steve Hix, International Recreational Go-Kart Association, 435 Corona, San Antonio, TX 78209 (210/824-1923; fax: 210/824-5186). For details on the meetings of Committee F24, contact F24 Staff Manager Bruce Noe, ASTM (610/832-9719).