Pediatricians Want Shopping Carts Redesigned

Discussion
Aug 07, 2006
George Anderson

By George Anderson


The American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) says in a new policy report that shopping carts need to be redesigned to protect small children from accidents. It also wants stricter government regulation to see that a safety standard is set for all carts.


According to AAP numbers, 24,000 kids were treated last year for shopping cart-related injuries. Of those, 20,700 were kids younger than five years old.


In most instances, said the AAP, injuries occur because a child has not been buckled in or because they stand up in a cart. The AAP, however, maintains that injuries also result because the design of carts makes them prone to tipping over.


Injuries sustained during falls from carts are often quite serious with head, neck trauma and broken bones often resulting.


Dr. Joseph Russell is a pediatrician who has treated children with shopping cart injuries. He told The Associated Press, “Even if you use a safety strap, it doesn’t address the center of gravity. If the child is strapped in and the cart tips over, where is the benefit?”


Dr. Gary Smith, an emergency room physician at Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio and director of its Center for Injury Research and Policy, served as the chairman of the committee that wrote the new AAP policy.


“Because we don’t have a standard that adequately addresses the major mechanisms of injury, the best we can do is to caution parents that these injuries are very real, they’re very frequent,” he said. Dr. Smith recommends that if parents can find an alternative to current shopping carts, they should use it.


Dr. Smith said a shopping cart industry standard was adopted in 2004 but the voluntary program fails to provide a “clear and effective performance criteria” for design that addresses the tipping over issue.


The AAP believes the voluntary program is not working and state and/or federal laws should be established to require minimum safety standards for carts.


The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission put out its own safety alert concerning shopping carts earlier in the year. CPSC spokeswoman Patty Davis said Congress has told the industry “to pursue voluntary standards before we take a mandatory route.”


Discussion Questions: Are government-mandated standards needed if shopping carts are to be made safer to use? What role do retailers have to play in
the shopping cart safety issue? Should retailers develop a more active role, i.e. working with vendors to create a safer shopping cart?

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16 Comments on "Pediatricians Want Shopping Carts Redesigned"


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James Tenser
Guest
14 years 6 months ago

The classic shopping cart design puts the child facing rearward at the top of the basket within immediate reach of the parent. Hazards occur when the parent steps away and the child tries to climb out or when the cart rolls over an uneven surface.

Some stores I have visited recently offer carts made from molded plastic that place the child in a forward-facing, lower seat. These designs appear inherently safer and more comfortable for the child. I submit that retailers who are concerned about the safety and liability associated with standard wire shopping carts should consider offering these molded carts as an alternative for shoppers with young children.

Design options aside, it’s clear that small children are most at risk when the parent diverts his or her attention or walks away from the cart. No small child should ever be left unsupervised in a retail environment. That is entirely the parent’s responsibility unless a childcare center is offered.

George Anderson
Guest
George Anderson
14 years 6 months ago

Back when my son was two, my wife and I went shopping at a local grocery store. As she was wheeling the cart out of the store, it suddenly began to tip (the parking lot sloped downhill). If I had not been there to stop it from falling, my son would certainly have been injured. Shopping cart injuries are not just about negligent parents. A different design in this case may have prevented what was nearly a serious accident.

Bernice Hurst
Guest
14 years 6 months ago

Well done, Rick, for pointing out what seems pretty obvious to me at least. Not to imply that there aren’t some stupid or careless or absentminded parents around (mothers and fathers) but it is nearly impossible to get what you want out of the refrigerator or freezer or off the shelf without taking your eye off your child. Otherwise you might as well shop blind. It seems to be that the responsibility is a joint one and that both retailers and manufacturers of carts also have a part to play. Make the carts safe? What a cool idea. Legislation shouldn’t be necessary but if voluntary codes don’t work then there is no other option. Save our taxpayer dollars by getting it right without taking up Congressional time please.

Kenneth A. Grady
Guest
Kenneth A. Grady
14 years 6 months ago

The urge to legislate overwhelms almost everyone at some point. The urge to innovate passes many people by. I’d like to see the pediatricians sponsor a design contest for a new, affordable, safe shopping cart design that addresses not only child safety and tipping issues, but stacking issues, the cranky wheel issue, etc.

Whatever legislations the pediatricians get, it would be a result of the legislative process and unlikely to really handle the problem. It would also set in stone standards that should evolve as technology and needs evolve.

Perhaps as a former General Counsel for retailers, I am jaded from having to defend against claims from these and other similar types of incidents. Rather than spending all the time and energy on litigation, things tend to work better when someone (some entity) seizes the initiative and gets the advantage on everyone else.

MARK DECKARD
Guest
MARK DECKARD
14 years 6 months ago

It’s not so much the fall, but that sudden stop at the end. Maybe the government should require all retailers to install those spongy , non-slip rubber floors now mandated around playground equipment in many places…

If a sharp shopping cart manufacturer comes up with safer designs while retaining the functionality & durability of carts at a competitive price, what we see in stores will change via attrition.

Now if we can just get those kids speeding through the aisles on bikes from the toy department to wear helmets….

David Zahn
Guest
14 years 6 months ago

I see fewer parents opting to place the child in the cart’s seat (the part where their legs hang out and kick you as you walk) and more choosing the plastic “cars/trucks/other vehicles” that are attached to the front of the cart and ride lower to the ground (so if they fall, there is not much room to pick up speed).

While I think a good portion of the injuries are related to non observant parents, kids goofing around, etc. – why take the chance? Have the kids walk alongside or ride in a lower to the ground apparatus. I do not think it requires a governmental mandate, but I am biased towards people being responsible for their own actions and the power of the free market.

Shop where you get your needs met – and if that means where they offer low to the ground seats for kids…then your decision is easier. If it is not available, then vote with your feet and wallet and shop where it is available.

Ed Dennis
Guest
Ed Dennis
14 years 6 months ago

If this was a real problem then our trial lawyers would have already put the fear of God in every cart manufacturer and purchaser. As usual, statistics are presented to advance an issue. I would expect that if one really looks into the numbers you might find that a high percentage of injury occurred when parents did not use the available safety equipment properly or use it at all. I am sure that some ambulance chaser has presented facts to a jury and juries have determined that if used properly carts are safe. Every day I hear or read about children being left in cars while Mom goes shopping. Every day hundreds of children are removed from homes due to abusive treatment. I don’t believe we need government to design shopping carts. They would probably give it to the IRS and we would get a 1500 page design document that would drive the price of a cart to $1000.

Richard J. George, Ph.D.
Guest
14 years 6 months ago

While I can appreciate the concerns about too much public policymaker interventions, if food retailers are to “walk the talk” about being customer focused then a safer shopping cart would be in order.

The irony is that the families with small children represent a very profitable segment for supermarkets. Instead of reacting to the AAP and others, the customer-focused supermarketer can be proactive in developing a fun, engaging, yet safer shopping cart. Seems like a good differential advantage tactic.

Leon Nicholas
Guest
Leon Nicholas
14 years 6 months ago
This one obviously pulls at the emotional heart strings, as no one wants to see children hurt. At the same time, the shopping cart is one of the most lawyer-tested objects we have. There are probably 3 dozen elements of the cart that are influenced in some way or another by a lawsuit that went south. Enough regulations. Short of airbags, the thing is safe. In my store, I suffered through numerous injuries of children (heads, fingers, tongues, etc.) in my carts — to blame the cart design seems to me to be shirking responsibility. Put up a sign that reminds parents that the cart is meant to cart groceries, and if they utilize the child carrying capability, the store is not negligent or liable if the child stands up and falls out or gets his finger stuck under the wheels because Mom let him sit in the bottom of the basket. Or the industry could stop trying to engineer the cart for something it was not made for and offer child care….
David Livingston
Guest
14 years 6 months ago

No we do not need mandates. Retailers have already done a good job. In my opinion, most injuries are the fault of inattentive parents. Probably just about every one of us has come to the aid of a child about ready to fall out of a shopping cart while mommy is lost in space somewhere.

Ian Percy
Guest
14 years 6 months ago
Of course no one wants a child hurt under any circumstance and we’ll all say so in our comments. But I still have some issues here especially when you hear about tag and running being banned in some school yards and so on. And we won’t even go to the idiot who discovers coffee is hot when you pour it on your crotch. The government can not do all our thinking for us – it can barely do it for itself. The safer design thing is easy and basically boils down to lower and wider – think Porche here. Of course they still have to stack and pass each other in aisles. After that brilliant insight I’m left with the parents. And this is where we need Jeff Foxworthy’s red neck “Here’s your ‘Stupid’ sign” routine. Parents who don’t make their kids wear seat belts in the car, who blow cigarette smoke in their child’s (sometimes infant’s) face, who feed them garbage because it’s easier, allow them to watch hours of unhealthy stuff on TV… Read more »
Dr. Stephen Needel
Guest
14 years 6 months ago

Once again, this sounds like government stepping in to keep people from doing stupid things. This is a parent problem, not a government problem or a retailer problem.

Rick Moss
Guest
14 years 6 months ago

No disrespect intended, but I just have to laugh when I see everyone taking whacks at inattentive mothers. After all the talk about “engaging” the customer with tantalizing product, sampling and in-store video displays, it just seems funny that we blame customers for being occasionally distracted. Sure…parents need to be responsible, but I still remember being thrown from a car when I was young because they hadn’t mandated the use of seat belts yet. Sometimes a little push is needed to force some better safety standards. Doesn’t seem like an insurmountable design challenge to me.

Warren Thayer
Guest
14 years 6 months ago

Speaking strictly as a selfish payer of taxes and ridiculous insurance premiums (partly because of these idiot parents) I don’t mind laws requiring use of seatbelts in cars or the use of helmets for motorcyclists. So I’d have no problem whatever with some governmental regulation on this one. And, as a matter of fact, I was once an idiot parent who ran around to another aisle for “just a second” and returned to find my young daughter standing up in the seat of the cart and about to fall over. That was almost 20 years ago, and it still gives me chills to think about it.

Mark Lilien
Guest
14 years 6 months ago

Supermarkets suffer when their customers’ kids get hurt. Guilty or not, insurance rates aren’t cheap compared to tiny profit margins. It’s smart to buy shopping carts that minimize children’s safety issues. Shopping cart manufacturers and supermarket retailers could offer prizes and contracts to industrial designers who come up with economical good-looking plans for better shopping carts. Apple isn’t the only source of innovative design. Or does the supermarket industry have to wait until Steve Jobs designs shopping carts?

s sarkauskas
Guest
14 years 6 months ago

I saw a cart tip the other day when the mom turned her head to look at some produce, and the two kids in it decided to climb out. But in many of the cases where I see accidents and near accidents, it is due to parents being overwhelmed, clueless or inattentive to what their children are doing. I saw a child, about 5, standing in the front seat of a cart just last night, in a checkout lane, and there was no discipline on the part of the parent. I think a child-care service in the store would be the best option, because I can’t imagine stacking 500 child-proof carts. (Carts have to be used by the childless, too, including elderly people. Those big plastic carts are heavy to push around.)

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