I remember sitting in the larger part of the shopping cart in the dairy aisle of the grocery store when I was four years old. I was reading a kids’ book, and if I recall it correctly, it was something about a rabbit. There was a man to the left of me who kindly asked my mom if she would be able to move her cart a bit, and that’s one of the last things I remember before I fell.
Apparently I stood up at just the right — or rather, wrong — moment. Because when my mom let go of the cart after moving it, the grocery cart tipped and I fell out of it. When we got home, without any groceries, my mom explains that I began throwing up, dozing off, and stopped talking all together. She took me to the ER, and a CT scan confirmed that I had fractured my skull.
I grew up thinking that I was one of the only kids who had fallen out of a shopping cart, but according to a Clinical Pediatric study, more than 24,000 children went to the hospital for shopping cart-related accidents annually between 1990 and 2011. To put this into perspective, that’s an average of 66 kids injured a day.
Even though putting our child inside a shopping cart seems safe enough while we’re doing it, data collected over 21 years proves that we lack proper shopping cart safety, and the result is alarming.
“The findings from our study show that the current voluntary standards for shopping cart safety are not adequate,” researcher on the study, Dr. Gary Smith, M.D., Dr.P.H., director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s hospital, said in a statement with HuffPost.”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.”
Out of the millions of injuries seen from 1990 to 2011, 78.1% of them were injuries to the head. The overall types of accidents range from limbs being trapped in a cart, children falling out of it, and shopping carts flipping over. The study focused on the prevalence of accidents after the implementation of shopping cart safety regulations in the U.S. in 2004. Whereas a decrease should have been seen, there has actually been a 200% increase in head injuries.
Because I had a serious head injury after my fall, I stopped talking altogether for three days. My mom and I have always been super close, and she’s always been the one I need when I’m sick or hurting as a young child and even now, but because my head injury caused confusion, she says that I acted like I didn’t even know who she was. The only person I wanted to be around or would go to was my aunt, and it had everybody more than just a little bit worried. I went from a “mommy’s girl” who never let anyone get a word in edgewise to a totally different child who quit talking.
As my mom explains it, this was one of the scariest times in her life. On my final day in the hospital, I was actually supposed to be transferred to a larger facility with better resources, because my doctor believed my injuries were more extensive than what was shown on my scans.
But on that morning, I woke my mom up by jumping up and down on my hospital bed (something everyone freaked out about, both out of fear of injuring myself further and joy I was turning a corner) while singing, “George, George, George of the jungle, watch out for that tree!” (What can I say? I was a fan.)
To the shock of my family, I ended up being okay. I couldn’t climb on anything for what felt like decades, and I was certainly prohibited from jumping on my bed from singing the “George of The Jungle” theme song, but I was in the clear.
My accident happened before the shopping cart standards were put into place in 2004, but even with these changes, accidents can still happen. Because of this, parents and caregivers must be aware of the possible dangers of these carts. Even though we should be able to, we cannot assume safety; just because a shopping cart is marked safe for children doesn’t mean that it is actually safe.
Smith and his team suggest that better safety restraints could help prevent these high number of accidents. Given that the buckles on shopping carts are placed in the highest part of the cart and on the very edge, this makes tip-overs more likely and causes children to fall from a greater height than they would if they were restrained in the lower region of shopping carts.
Though we can’t always ditch the cart when shopping with our children altogether, researchers suggest that caregivers look into alternative methods for your child’s seating, such as using baby carriers, strollers, or car-carts instead. If parents do need to place their child in a shopping cart, it is urged that the child is properly secured in the restraints before shopping, and an adult is holding onto the cart the entire time. And for the love, do not place your infant’s car seat on the high end of the cart with them inside of it.
“It is important for parents to understand that shopping carts can be a source of serious injury for their children,” Smith tells Consumer Affairs. “However, they can reduce the risk of injury by taking a few simple steps of precaution, such as always using the shopping cart safety belts if their child needs to ride in the cart.”
I ended up making a full recovery from my shopping cart accident, but there are other children out there who were not so lucky. Parents have so many things to worry about as is, you’d never think that shopping carts — something that is readily available for a child’s use at nearly all stores in America — would be added to that list. Unfortunately, it is.
Share the word. Take notice of your surroundings. Think about alternative methods of lugging your child(ren) around.
Above all, advocate for the tiny shoppers, because they deserve a safe space to sit.