With my company organising a Funfair tomorrow evening, I’m reminded of a news item of a few weeks ago. It relates to Bumper Cars, or Dodgems. Every theme park and funfair has them, and they’re probably in the top five favourite rides for many kids. Well, many male kids, for sure. The point, as everyone knows, is to ride around and try and avoid getting completely hammered by the overenthusiastic 8-year-old psycho-in-training, while giving your companions a few surprises.
There are usually signs up saying “No Bumping”, but nobody really bothers with those, as they’re obviously just there to protect the owners from compensation claims, and to save a little money on repairs.
However, Butlins, the institutional seaside resort, have recently made quite a fuss about their bumper car rides, insisting that “for health and safety reasons”, absolutely no bumping is allowed. Drivers are expected to drive round in a circle, in an orderly fashion, avoiding each other. Merchants of Joy, come hither and learn thy craft!
Butlins insist that the ride isn’t “Bumper Cars”, it’s “Dodgems”, meaning that you’re supposed to dodge each other, not hit each other. I say, why not go the whole hog, and call them “Cruisems”, or “Walkems”, or even “Leave Each Other Alonems”.
The silly thing is that there has never been a successful litigation claim as a result of a Bumper Car (well, not in England anyway – I’d be flabbergasted if this was the case in the US). In fact, it’s used as a textbook example of the sort of accident which would certainly not result in a successful claim. So why the sudden infatuation with Health and Safety? It’s a little bit late to be jumping onto this bandwagon – that sort of thing had its heyday with the Blair government and is supposed to be making way for common sense. It got so bad a couple of years back that firemen weren’t allowed to rescue someone for fear of being sued. The Tory government campaigned on pushing this sort of thing back, but they haven’t really made an impact just yet. Let’s hope they make some progress before all the fun gets sucked out of life.