January 18, 2007

Q: Strollers On Escalators?


Looks like I picked the wrong week to give up sucking up to the Baby Industrial Complex. First, Consumer Reports blows it, so the kid's riding around in a European deathseat; the shady phone store can't unlock my new, allegedly sweet Canadian handset; and then some do-goodnik stranger gives me a working over on the Metro for taking the kid-in-stroller on the escalator.

Am I alone? {For the sake of argument, let's ignore the two nannies who got off the same train and on the same escalator we did.] Any escalator-stroller tips, cautionary tales, horror stories scary enough to change my negligent ways?

update: At Marty's suggestion, I did my own Googlescaring. According to a CIRP study of the 26,000 escalator-related injuries between 1990-2002 of kids 0-19 years old, nearly half [12,000] were kids 0-5 years old. The age group is more likely to: get entrapped; injure their hands; and specifically, get their hands entrapped. Though uncommon [883/26,000, or about 3%] 71% of amputation/avulsions [595 cases] occurred in kids 0-5. All that said, strollers were involved in 6% of cases [723]. Falling out of the stroller accounted for "most" of those injuries.

Escalator-Related Injuries Among Children in the United States, 1990–2002, Pediatrics, Aug. 2006, McGeehan, et al. [pediatrics.aapublications.org]


Ever see the guts of an escalator? They're like giant maws. I used to get ticked-off by those "no stroller" signs, too -- aw, come on! But they really are lethal -- you trip, the kid falls forward and gets her hair (and scalp) removed before you can get control of the stroller back. She gets a finger caught in the underside of the rubber rail and a nice little amputation. And so on.

There's no fast way to stop the teeth, and virtually no way to remove a kid they're eating.

It's just one of those things -- tossing her down the stairs in a stroller wouldn't do half the damage. You could be all strength-and-grace yourself, but haven't you been shoved yet by a bunch of adolescents playing tag on the escalator?

Of course, you could always wrap the kid in duct tape before taking the perilous journey. No extraneous bits to catch in the steel teeth that way. But isn't it really just easier to take the stairs?

Not to belabor the point or anything, but according to this CBS report from 2005, 10,000 people (and lotsa, lotsa children) a year go to hospitals because of escalator accidents:

CBS News: Escalators

I'm sure you can Google up more . . .

[YOW. I originally meant "scare me away from strollers on escalators," not "scare me away from escalators altogether." -ed.]

So 723 kids under five were injured by riding in a stroller on an escalator and 11,277 kids under five were injured by not riding in a stroller on an escalator? What percentage of escalator rides for kids under five are taken in a stroller?

All those stats convince me of is if you're taking the kid on an escalator, you're safer leaving him/her in the stroller. If only 6% of escalator accidents involve strollers, I'll take those odds over having the kid stand or holding her. (And put those stats in perspective... how many children are injured in traffic accidents? Safe bet that it's a large multiple of the escalator figure. Would those stats stop you from driving your child in a car?)

For the record, we have a Peg Perego Aria which literally weighs less than half what our daughter does... it's not like it's heavy or unmanageable on the escalator; in fact, it's easier than holding her squirming in my arms or having her stand on the step and jump off at the exact correct moment.

The fact is, I'd pick the elevator any day, but that's not always an option. In Japan we were faced with 2 or 3 storeys worth of stairs to some train platforms... the escalator was the only option in a lot of those situations that made sense...

I use the escalator. Elevators aren't always available, and the escalator sure beats carrying a stroller and child up and down the stairs.

As for entrapment, I think there is less chance of that since the child is more contained in a stroller.

When I was in Germany for the Kids show, we noted 2 things about the escalators:

1. Being a dumb American, we thought they were broken because they were not running. Those energy saving Germans figured out to put a pressure sensitive plate in front of the escalators, which activated them - so, no traffic, they shut off to save energy (what do they think that energy is not free?)

2. The stickers on the escalators explain how to safely travel up and down the escalator with a stroller.

The stats are pretty meaningless without context. If the kid is strapped into the stroller, entrapment is all but impossible. (Assuming the limbs aren't overhanging.) The only risk of injury then is tumbling down the thing, which seems a lot more likely when you're trying to lug a stroller up or down stairs. Don't worry about it.

Here are some equally meaningless statistics (US):

An average of 370 people are killed or injured every year by lightning.

Around 20,000 people die from the flu.

3.4 million people are injured in car accidents (with another 40,000 killed).

Ok, gotta reply. The only statistic that matters is the one that applies to me . . . without knowing the precise methodology, controls, etc. (and having the education to interpret them) it certainly is difficult to define exactly what the specifics mean.

That said, point one is: I think few people realize how many of their cosmic kin mention "escalator" when dragged off to the emergency room. Regardless of the details, it's an impressive number -- but it really only matters if you're the one it happens to.

Point two, what's always impressed me about escalator accidents is the severity of the damage done -- not death, but body parts mangled.

Point three, yeah, escalators are undoubtedly most dangerous to self-propelled small children. Something to keep in mind when that time comes.

Point four, has anyone ever managed to strap a kid into a stroller so that no body parts dangled? Hmmm . . . . now we're back to duct tape.

To each his/her own, but it's the stairs for my kid.

[a good point; using macro statistical data to make individual, daily parenting decisions doesn't make sense at all. My daughter's likelihood of drowning in a pickle bucket is greatly diminished by her never being near them, but her chance of escalator injury is higher because she rides them every day. But her chances of getting injured anywhere would be depend more on whether I'm yammering on a cell phone or constantly swatting her hands back into her stroller. -ed.]

I have to say -- I always *try* to take an elevator when I have kid and stroller in tow on the Metro. But, about half the time, the elevators are not working, and other times (like at Union Station) you spend more time walking around in circles trying to get from one elevator to another (okay -- so I'm a newbie at elevator locating - but they're not always intuitively placed!) than it would take to just WALK to wherever you were going -- forget the Metro. But, when I have found myself in a station sans elevator to the platform, I fold the stroller, hold it and squirmy baby, and take the escalator. That, however, brings up its own set of precarious balancing. If I was using a smallish umbrella-type stroller, I would be tempted to just go for it, though!

I've ridden the DC metro system for most of my life, and I'm over 30. I've seen one escalator accident - Smithsonian station, dad's hands full with stroller, diaper bag, kid's backpack, souvenir bag, and a cranky baby, maybe 18 months. No other adult. Unattended three year old stuck his hand under that... scuff guard? Brushy thing along the edge? Whatever. Hand stuck, escalator not stuck, did not end well. (I had been pretty far back behind the family, so honestly, I'm only speculating that he was playing with the scuff thing. From what I actually saw, I had thought the kid was just sitting on the escalator step, which is a pretty common sight on the longer escalators in the tourist district. Note to self - do not allow own offspring to sit on escalator step.)

The people minding your business would have done a greater good teaching the tourists to stand right, pass left. ;) I think, as with most things, that a kid restrained in her stroller, or standing holding a parent's hand, and either way getting all of said parent's attention, is going to be okay.

I just can't say how often I've taken the kid in pram on the escalator, and the only horror story is getting the cameleon wedged too tightly into the ultra-skinny (for those ultra-skinny shoppers?) Neiman Marcus escalator and causing it to jam ... not so nice. Embarrassment? yes! Danger? no! Did we buy anything? no, we hightailed it out of there.

I was just going to comment that we use the escalator all the time with the kid in the stroller, except at Neiman Marcus, where we've also noticed that their escalators are too narrow to fit our Cameleon (Megan beat me to it).

There are lots of dangerous things out there in the world that can harm your child, and to which you're exposed to on a daily basis. Escalators rank pretty far down on that list. In any case, I don't want to raise a kid who's afraid to go outside. Teach your kid to respect the world and its dangers, but not to fear it.

To Sanya's point, accidents happen when a parent exceeds the attention span. If it's you, the kid, the stroller and the escalator, no worries. I do it all the time and if I get the "eyeball" from some other parent, I simply wonder why the perfect people need to go to the mall in the first place.

The wife has always insisted on taking the kids out of the stroller and holding them on the "ride" up or down. I always look at her like she is crazy. I don't see what the big deal is with letting them ride in the stroller on the thing.

Well, I'll chip in from 2 perspectives. First, I have 4 kids 6 and under. I've had singles strollers on escalators, double strollers (front and behind) on escalators, joggging strollers (side by side) on escalators... No accidents.
Second, I'm an ER physician for last 10 years, and I haven't personally seen (nor know of any of my colleagues seeing) an escalator accident.

That's not good science - just my personal LONG case series - but it's good enough for me and mine...

I had the wheeled board thingie on the Britax Marathon at Newark airport last week. The elevators in terminal A are conveniently located on opposite ends of the building, with the escalators temptingly perched in the middle. We tried it and the kid survived but it was a little precarious with her tipped back on two wheels. I am totally okay with the old Bugaboo Frog on escalators, though. Especially having carried it up several flights of stairs over the past two and 3/4 years. Exhausted mommy is more likely to make a bad judgment or lack quick reflexes than only slightly fatigued mommy...

I've had more close calls with the kid crossing the street... almost dumped her out of the stroller the other day when it took a nosedive into a big fissure between the road and curb. Strollers, I think the closest I've had to a problem was getting the front wheels momentarily caught on the down escalator once in Japan, so after that I made sure to keep the nose up on landings...

Other than the handrail thing, which admittedly does sound like something to watch out for now that her arms are a bit longer, I don't honestly see the danger. I'd be more worried about my own safety, as I've had a shoelace sucked into one of those things in my teens.

I took our daughter on the escalator in her stroller several times early on. The only reason I stopped was because my mother freaked out when she saw me do it. I generally try to be a law-abiding person, so if the rule is no strollers on escalators I'm willing to go along with that and take the elevator or the stairs. Both seem to be safer options I guess, but I agree with the other commenter that a small child secured in a stroller on an escalator strikes me as far less dangerous than a small child standing on an escalator.

Hope to see you at katsu next month!

I've seen at least one case, at the mall, where a stroller with a kid strapped into it took a dive down an escalator. Next thing, the kid was screaming and the three or for adults in the party were hooping and hollering. Fortunately, the kid was OK. But I shook my head anyway. There was an elevator in the store, not far from the escalator.

If you are alone and maneuvering a stroller, while perhaps also trying to manage one or more bags, take the elevator if there is one. Or you'd better have a very firm grip on the stroller. And if you're with someone else, doing all the above, and carrying on a conversation, chances are you're going to have a stroller/escalator mishap.

Let's face it. Some people will do all the things I mentioned above, and then blame the store or some other entity when the stroller pitches down the escalator with their kid in it. If I were responsible for the escalator I'd put a sign up just to avoid hearing "Nobody told us it wasn't safe," in court.

As a parent, for my own peace of mind and my kid's safety, I'd rather wait for the elevator.

I think you have to be reasonable about things. We'll take an escalator over stairs anytime. If there's an elevator we try to take that.

I do get annoyed when young healthy (not in wheelchair) people take elevators and not the escalator near by.

I use the elevator when it's close-by and working but in the DC Metro it's often broken or very far away. So, I use the escalator, carefully standing behind it. When going down, I get on backwards so the stroller is facing up with my weight behind it. It seems relatively safe to me although I'm sure if I fell or the sroller tipped over it would not be good. I got a lecture today from a "personal injury lawyer" who told me she has seen does of cases where kids in strollers get hurt on escalators. Of course it's safer to use the elevator. It would be lot safer to never drive on the highway but that is not practical.

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