Ever since the voluntary shopping cart safety standard was implemented in the United States in 2004, the incidence of injuries has continued to climb. The American Academy of Pediatrics weighed in in 2006:
Shopping cart–related injuries to children are common and can result in severe injury or even death. Most injuries result from falls from carts or cart tip-overs, and injuries to the head and neck represent three fourths of cases. The current US standard for shopping carts should be revised to include clear and effective per- formance criteria to prevent falls from carts and cart tip-overs.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission has been working since 2010 on revising the standard, all while the injury rate increases. A new study (summarized at ScienceDaily), looking at data from 1990-2011, shows just how ineffective the old standard has been:
[ f]alls from a shopping cart accounted for the majority of injuries (70.4 percent), followed by running into/falling over the cart, cart tip overs and entrapment of extremities in the cart. The most commonly injured body region was the head (78.1 percent). While soft tissue injuries were the most common diagnosis for these head injuries, the annual rate of concussions and closed head injuries (which are concussions and internal head injuries) increased significantly by more than 200 percent during the study period, with the number of these injuries going from 3,483 injuries in 1990 to 12,333 in 2011. Most of this increase was associated with children ages 0 to 4 years.
That’s more than half-a-million children injured over the study period, 24,000 injuries per year, 66 children per day, and one child treated in an emergency department every 22 minutes.
The author of the study was the same pediatrician who called for changes in 2006:
“The findings from our study show that the current voluntary standards for shopping cart safety are not adequate,” said Gary Smith, MD, DrPH, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. “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. 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.”
Here are some precautions that were suggested from the results of the study:
• 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.