Like many 3-year-old boys, Boden Kearney doesn't find sitting still in a shopping cart all that much fun.
"He's always been a kid I couldn't keep buckled in," his mother, Ashley Kearney of Allentown, said during a recent shopping trip to a nearby Giant supermarket.
But there he was, calmly perched in the shopping cart's folding seat, snug against a bag of lemons. A case of bottled water occupied Boden's preferred spot in the play car seat at the bottom front of the cart. Snow and ice on the seat made getting behind the wheel too uncomfortable for him.
But if his mom knew about the latest findings from two studies on shopping cart safety, she'd wouldn't want him anywhere but the car seat.
A recent study published in the journal Clinical Pediatrics found that more than 24,000 children every year are treated in hospital emergency departments for injuries involving supermarket shopping carts. Most of the injured are very young children — up to age 4 — and seven out of 10 cases involve falls from the carts.
On Thursday, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission issued its own report, finding 107,300 cases of children under age 5 treated in hospital emergency departments for shopping cart-related injuries from 2008 to 2012.
Area supermarket chains Giant, Wegmans and Weis say they have carts that exceed safety standards, offer customers options in how to deal with young children while shopping and encourage employees to keep an eye out for customers' safety.
According to the Clinical Pediatrics study's author, Dr. Gary Smith of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, the problem has resisted solutions. The estimated number of pediatric injuries has remained fairly constant, despite development of a new safety standard in 2004.
"The news overall is the current standard unfortunately is not making a difference," Smith said.
While the number of injuries has remained constant, the rate of concussion and internal injuries to children's heads has jumped from under 4,000 in 1990 to about 12,000 in 2011, the data show. The researchers were unsure why the increase occurred, although it could be related to better awareness of pediatric concussions by parents and more frequent diagnosis by emergency room physicians.
Locally, Lehigh Valley Health Network reported occasional cases of children being hurt in cart accidents.
"We have had a few and they are usually head injuries when kids fall while standing in the basket part of the cart," said Dr. Andrew Miller, chief of pediatric emergency medicine at Lehigh Valley Hospital's children's hospital.
In some of those cases, the child falls from the cart seat, he added.
The study also found that kids were injured running into carts, tripping over them and being caught in a cart that tipped over.
The latter event is the kind of accident that shouldn't happen, Smith said. But the United States, unlike many other western industrialized countries, does not have a stability standard for safety, he said. With some carts, as little as 10 pounds of downward pressure can cause a cart to tip, Smith said.
In addition to the instability of some carts, the standards for the seat belt mechanism is "vague," Smith said. "It's hard for manufacturers to know if they're complying and it's hard to enforce."
Back at the Giant supermarket, Keith Rippey wheeled around his 15-month-old daughter, Aleksandra, while 41/2-year-old Lienna tagged along. Aleksandra sat quietly in the cart, the buckle and snap of the restraint system hanging unused. Her father wasn't too worried.
"It would take a supreme effort for her to get out of that seat," said Rippey, of Allentown.
Keeping his hands on the cart, Rippey said that using common sense will keep children safe.
"Parenting, attentiveness is 99 percent of the cure," he said.