The number of children injured by shopping carts is way up, and harried parents in a rush to get out of the store is one reason why, according to the National Safe Kids Campaign.

The number of preschoolers taken to emergency rooms because of shopping-cart accidents has risen by 30 percent since 1985, the group based in Washington, D.C., said Saturday. In recent years, there have been an average 21,600 such accidents a year.The problem is not that there are more kids, since the birth rate has declined during that same period, but that parents are often in too much of a hurry to strap their kids into the seats. "The excuses you hear are the same," said Roberta Needleman, area coordinator for the National Safe Kids Campaign. "Things like, `Well, they didn't want to be restrained,' or, `I was so close to home,' or, `I was only going to be two minutes.' "

Carts are top-heavy and have a narrow base, so children can be hurt when they stand up in, jump off, fall out of, run into, climb on, catch a finger in or become struck by shopping carts.

Falling accounts for nearly two out of every three injuries.

Among children who fell, about two out of three suffered head injuries, the organization said, and boys were more likely to be hurt than girls. About two-thirds of all children injured in a shopping-cart accident were 5 or younger.

To guard against injury, small children accompanying parents should be placed in the cart's seat and strapped in, said Needleman, who works in Allegheny County's health department.

Children too big for the seat can help with the shopping instead of running free, she said. More than 80 percent of shoppers with children leave a child unattended at least once during a shopping trip.

"You could have a child, at home, draw pictures for the grocery list and be your assistant in the store. When you think about it, it's a good opportunity to teach colors," Needleman said.