Shopping Carts Designed to Keep Groceries Safe, Not Kids

A new study from Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio has revealed shopping carts as a major source of injuries for children in Indiana and across the nation. Researchers found from 1990 to 2011, more than 530,000 children were treated in emergency rooms across the country for injuries associated with shopping carts – including falls, entrapment and carts that tipped over on them.

Dr. Gary Smith, director of Nationwide’s Center for Injury Research and Policy, says the behavior of both parents and children plays a role, but there also are flaws in shopping cart design.

“The current shopping cart standard simply is not adequate,” he maintains. “It does not have a component that addresses the stability of the cart to help prevent the tip-overs, despite the fact that other countries have such tip-over prevention standards.”

The study recommends some design changes, such as improving performance standards for the safety belt or restraint systems, and placing the seating area of the cart near the floor. Smith says the latter change improves safety by lowering the cart’s center of gravity, which reduces the risk of a tip-over.

Falls would also be less serious if the child is sitting closer to the floor. Smith says children can suffer a variety of injuries from shopping cart-related accidents.

“Everything from bruises and cuts all the way up to major fractures and concussions,” he relates. “And in this study, we did not have any deaths, but I’m aware of deaths that have occurred from falls from shopping carts.”

Whenever possible, Smith says parents should look for alternatives to putting children in a shopping cart – whether it’s leaving children with another adult, or in a supervised play area in the store.

For very little ones, Smith suggests using an infant carrier. And if parents must use a cart, he recommends choosing one with the child seat low to the ground, following the safety instructions, and ensuring the child is secure.

“They should use the restraint systems that are there and, as best they can, watch their children as close as they can while they shop,” Smith advises. “But even that is tough to do. These injuries can and do occur in just the time it takes to reach for something on the shelf, as you turn your head.”

The study is published in the January print issue of Clinical Pediatrics.