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THE SAFETY ZONE | Special Report: Children's Dangers

The Humble Shopping Cart: An Attractive Hazard for Kids

March 20, 2000

For many young children, the highlight of a trip to the supermarket is cruising the aisles in a shopping cart. But several recent studies have raised attention to the injuries suffered by kids who fall from the carts.

According to the National Safe Kids Campaign, the number of children ages 5 and under injured in shopping cart incidents has increased more than 30% over the last decade.

Children suffer from lacerations, contusions, fractures, concussions and internal injuries when they jump or fall from a shopping cart. When the cart overturns, they get pinched in the folding mechanism of the seat or they fall against the cart. The organization said children also are at risk of injury from running into or being hit by shopping carts and from getting fingers or toes caught in the wheels.

Falling accounts for nearly two of every three injuries, according to the group. Among children who fell, about two of three suffered head injuries, the organization said. Boys were more likely to be hurt than girls. About two-thirds of all children injured in shopping-cart accidents were 5 or younger.

Shopping carts have a high center of gravity and a narrow wheelbase, making them top-heavy when loaded and therefore easy to tip over, especially when a child is placed in the seat, according to the report. When children stand up, their chances of falling or tipping the cart increase, the report said.

A 1995 study by the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine found that 25,000 children a year are injured when they fall or jump from shopping carts or when the carts tip over.

The researchers in that study recommended that among other design changes, shopping carts be widened to reduce chances of tipping. Industry officials, however, have said that a redesign is not needed, that parents need to supervise their children when using the carts.

Here are some tips from the National Safe Kids Campaign:

* Always use safety belts to restrain children in shopping cart seats.

* Consider bringing a harness or safety belt with you when shopping to prevent your child from falling or climbing out of shopping carts.

* Always stay close to the shopping cart.

* Do not let your child stand in the shopping cart.

* Never let a child push or steer the shopping cart.

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