British safety madness again: Butlins bans bumping on the bumper cars

When Sir Billy Butlin introduced bumper cars to Britain more than 80 years ago, it can be assumed he expected holiday makers to have fun on the fairground ride bumping into each other. But what Sir Billy did not foresee was the modern culture of health and safety that has not only introduced seat belts and insisted everyone drives in the same direction, but banned bumping.

Staff at all three Butlin resorts in Bognor Regis, Minehead and Skegness are instructed to ban anyone found guilty of bumping into each other in the electric cars equipped with huge bumpers.

Bemused customers who assume that the ‘no bumping sign’ is in jest are told to drive around slowly in circles rather than crash into anyone else for fear of an injury that could result in the resort being sued.

Telegraph columnist Michaal Deacon, who has just returned from a holiday at the Bognor Regis resort, said the experience was like “trundling round an exitless roundabout”.

“I’m not convinced that the dangers were great, given that the bumper cars were equipped with bumpers,” he said. “Seat belts, too. There were no airbags for the drivers, but it can be only a matter of time.”

Butlins confirmed that people are not allowed to bump the bumper cars for “health and safety reasons”. In fact the resorts insist on calling the experience Dodgems rather than bumper cars.

Jeremy Pardey, resort director at Bognor Regis, said there have been injuries in the past including broken bones, due to people bumping into each other. He said the rules are “pretty vigilant” to avoid anyone being hurt, although customers are not asked to wear crash helmets.

But he insisted people have “great fun” dodging one another by crossing the circle of traffic and over taking. “The point of our Dodgems is to dodge people, not to run into people,” he said.

Sir Billy Butlin was the first person to introduce the concept of driving electric cars, equipped with large bumpers, around a flat ride. He brought the UK franchise for Dodgem Cars, a brand of bumper cars manufactured in the US, and introduced them at his holiday camps in 1923.

The ride is now common on most fairgrounds and it is generally accepted that the point is to try and get around as fast as possible by dodging other people and even bumping off rivals.

Although many fairgrounds do have signs saying ‘no bumping’ for health and safety reasons or even for fear of litigation, few fairgrounds ban people for breaking the rules.

Anecdotal evidence suggest people have tried to get compensation for whiplash or other injuries sustained on the Dodgems, but there has not been a single successful case. In fact, more than one firm of solicitors uses the level of impact one would receive from a dodgem crash as an example of where a neck injury compensation claim would not succeed. It would also be difficult to prove some fault on the part of another dodgem driver.

David Cameron has pledged to tear up "mad health and safety rules" that have prevented firemen and police doing their jobs properly.


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