Study shows shopping cart injuries rise after US safety standards set

Friday, January 24, 2014

This row of colorful carts awaits safe use.
Image: Jim.

Over two decades, on average every 22 minutes a child in the United States experiences an injury from a shopping cart-related accident that requires emergency room attention and this type of injury has increased significantly, according to a new study released this month by the journal Clinical Pediatrics.

The number of shopping cart-related injuries to children increased over the course of the study period, which was between 1990 and 2011, and also increased since the United States first set safety standards in 2004. The study notes that an average of 66 children a day required emergency care as a result. According to the study, that is an estimated 24,000 children annually. The study looked at over a half a million cases over the two decades.

Researchers also found that 70.4 percent of those injuries were from falls from the shopping carts. The study also documents the other ways children are commonly injured including collisions, cart tip overs, and trapped limbs. The most likely type of injury is a head injury and accounts for 78.1 percent of emergency care cases involving shopping carts.

The study was carried out by Dr. Gary Smith, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, and his colleagues. Smith said the current voluntary standards for shopping cart safety are not adequate. "Not only have the overall number of child injuries associated with shopping carts not decreased since implementation of the safety standards, but the number of concussions and closed head injuries is actually increasing," he said. "It is time we take action to protect our children by strengthening shopping cart safety standards with requirements that will more effectively prevent tip-overs and falls from shopping carts."

Shopping cart-related accidents happen to both young and old. Chris Strickland, 18, was working in a Home Depot in Anchorage, Alaska earlier this month when he saw a shopping cart falling over and in quick order stopped the cart with one hand and saved a baby with his other arm. And in Shanghai, China, a women died last year as a result of a runaway shopping cart.

According to Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, parents can follow several guidelines in order to reduce the danger of shopping cart-related accidents:

  • Whenever possible, choose alternatives to placing your child in a shopping cart.
  • Always use the shopping cart safety straps. Be sure your child is snugly secured in the straps and that the child’s legs are placed through the leg openings. If parts of the cart restraint system are missing or are not working, choose another cart.
  • Use a cart that has a child seat that is low to the ground, if one is available.
  • Make sure your child remains seated.
  • Stay with the cart and your child at all times.
  • Avoid placing infant carriers on top of shopping carts. If your child is not old enough to sit upright by himself in the shopping cart seat, consider other options such as leaving your child at home with another adult while you are at the store, using in-store child care areas, using a front- or back-pack carrier, or using a stroller.
    —Nationwide Children's Hospital