Aug. 7, 2006— -- Every day, parents put their children in shopping carts while they peruse the aisles of the grocery store, but they might be surprised to hear that's not always a great idea.
According to a new study, an estimated 24,000 children were treated in hospitals for shopping cart-related injuries last year. While some are bumps are bruises, some of those injuries actually are fatal.
Dawn Tolan learned just how quickly an accident can happen when her daughter Ellie reached for something on a shelf, and immediately fell out of the cart. Ellie had to be rushed to the emergency room.
"She had a temperature of 102 and that's when they got a little scared and wanted to do a cat scan," Tolan said. Ellie was fine, but thousands of children suffer serious injuries.
"A fall to a very hard surface -- it only takes four feet or so, and that can result in a life-threatening injury," said Dr. Gary Smith of Columbus Children's Hospital.
Many children get injured when they reach for something or stand up in the cart when their parents aren't looking, which is why many shopping carts have safety belts to keep kids strapped in.
In a Canadian study, researchers found that preschoolers can be up and out of the seat in three seconds. ABC News' 20/20 investigation found that with even the slightest push a cart can come crashing to the ground.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission said that when they developed the standards for shopping carts they looked into the issue of stability and determined that the overwhelming injuries which occurred were not caused by stability issues, but from falling out or falling off the cart. They determined they wanted to focus their efforts on warning labels on the carts and the seat belt requirements.
Smith said many injuries can be prevented by using kid-friendly carts that keep children low to the ground and less at risk. He also found that when stores had greeters who remind parents how to secure their children in the carts safely, the number of parents who did so tripled.
"By making carts lower to the floor, by making sure these carts are stable, these injuries will virtually disappear," Smith said.