In 2009, a 6-year-old boy was struck and killed by a piece of flying debris at a monster truck show in Tacoma, Washington. The tragedy didn't put the brakes on this popular form of entertainment, but it did cause the Monster Truck Racing Association (MTRA) to think about safety for spectators. “We were all very, very upset by it,” says Marty Garza, vice president the MTRA. “A lot of changes were made as a result.”

The most important change: All MTRA-approved show trucks are now equipped with a remote ignition interrupter, or RII. If a truck starts to veer off course or otherwise appears to pose a potential danger to spectators, multiple show staffers are equipped to shut it down remotely in an instant.

“The RII system is tested before each run the trucks make,” says Garza. In addition, truck shows require every vehicle to be inspected before a show and spectators to sit far from the action. There’s a 30-foot safety zone beyond the perimeter of the performance area.

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It’s great the MTRA has taken such solid measures to protect people at monster truck shows. Here’s what you as a parent can do to keep the littlest spectators safe.

Stick to well-known, big-name shows. There’s no guarantee smaller shows will follow the same safety guidelines as the bigger names in the business. Those that are members of MTRA are safe bets, as are Monster Jam shows. If you do go to a lesser-known monster truck show, look around before you settle down. If spectators are allowed to sit at ground level or no one seems to be checking over the trucks before they enter the performance area, you may want to switch gears and find something else to do that day.

Protect your child’s ears. It’s the rare show that isn’t loud. “A lot of our trucks now have mufflers to try to quiet them somewhat,” says Garza, “but ear protection is still a good idea.” Bring earplugs for your kid (and you) in case the noise is deafening or your child seems afraid of the ruckus.

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Don’t forget the sunscreen. A monster truck show isn't a day at the beach, but one that takes place on a sunny day can be hazardous to skin. Sun rays glinting off trucks and piles of cars can help egg on sunburn. Pack a broad-spectrum sunscreen and put it on your child at least a half-hour before you’ll be outside. (Don’t forget the tops of her feet, if she’s wearing open shoes.)

Protect young eyes. The sun reflecting off trucks and piles of cars can be hard on children’s eyes. Too much sun exposure is linked to developing cataracts later in life. Have your child sport sunglasses that block 99 or 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays.

Stay in the designated areas. Sure, the service pit looks like fun, but only authorized personnel are allowed inside.

Be careful when checking out display trucks. They should always be roped off or otherwise guarded. Make sure your child doesn’t break loose for a closer look, and don’t allow him to climb on any vehicles being exhibited.

Have a plan in case you get separated. “We had about 60,000 people at one of our largest events,” says Garza. “Sometimes we also sell thousands of standing-room-only tickets.” It can be all too easy for a child to get lost in such crowds. Plan a meeting place in case it happens, point out security personnel to your children and make sure they know they can always ask them for help. Go with even older kids to the bathroom and concession stands. It’s easy to get confused in a large venue.

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