It is sad that it often takes a tragedy to bring about needed and important changes in society. Change is difficult in the best of circumstances, and the status quo exerts a powerful inertia that can be difficult to shake. That situation is made even more challenging when there are specific and powerful forces that benefit greatly from the status quo. But, when tragedy on one end aligns with a risk to economic interests on the other, the environment to make a difference can present itself. 

We know the family of Tyler Jarrell would have wanted a different legacy for their son. To watch him grow up, graduate from high school, then maybe college, perhaps get married and have a family of his own someday. Instead, his legacy will be a law his family hopes will help prevent others from going through the loss and pain they have. Jarrell, 18, was killed at the Ohio State Fair in 2017 after the Fireball ride he was on broke apart, and since then a number of lawmakers have been working to ensure tougher standards and ride inspections. 

House Bill 189, known as Tyler’s Law, is sponsored by State Reps. John Patterson, D-Jefferson, and Louis Blessing, R-Colerain Township, and it passed the Ohio House earlier this month. “A young life was cut short, a family left to grieve, an indelible image forever burned into the memories of those present. But out of this tragedy came purpose, a sense of hope, and a spirit of determination in those Tyler left behind ... to ensure another preventable tragedy like this never happens again,” Patterson said.

Tyler’s Law increases communication among state inspectors, ride manufacturers, ride owners and the Ohio Department of Agriculture (which is responsible for ride inspections in Ohio) to better assess amusement ride inspections and repairs. It includes an “enhanced classification system” to identify rides that might need more comprehensive or internal inspection, requires safety and maintenance communications from the ride manufacturer to be forwarded to ODA, tracks previous locations of temporary amusement rides prior to their operation in Ohio and requires photographic documentation of major repairs before and after they are completed. 

The latter portion of the law is especially important because many rides go all over the world, and during winter months might be taken to warmer coastal locations where their exposure to water — and rust and erosion — can make them susceptible to damage and wear and tear that might not be visible to an inspector’s naked eyes. Tyler’s Law also increases the certification standards for inspectors.

While industries are often notoriously opposed to increased regulations, there has been widespread support for Tyler’s Law — in large part because from a business standpoint interest in such rides is down as the public has become wary of traveling rides and the potential for such catastrophic accidents. Tyler’s Law should provide real, substantive change to the regulation of the industry in Ohio that should make a difference in safety — as opposed to some of the security theater we can see at times when industries want to appear to do something without really changing anything. We urge the Ohio Senate to get this bill passed quickly.

This tragic situation reminds us that we expect a lot from our government — first and foremost to keep us safe. We often take it for granted that someone is watching out for us, checking manufacturer standards and transportation operations. We grumble and gripe about government and regulations, but when we don’t have them — or they fail — the consequences can be unthinkable.