Ban on sales of baby walkers in New Jersey takes first steps
TRENTON — A bill that has taken its first wobbly steps in Trenton would ban the sale of baby walkers in New Jersey over concerns that young children continue to get injured in the devices despite safety improvements.
The number of children 15 months and younger injured while using the wheeled walkers with a harness seat has dropped from more than 20,000 in 1990 to around 2,000 in 2015. But state Sen. Linda Greenstein, D-Middlesex, said despite safety improvements, they remain dangerous.
“They cause significant levels of injuries, have been responsible for deaths, and actually they say that developmentally, they don’t help children. They actually hurt children developmentally,” Greenstein said. “So there’s really not much good to them except that they’re a bit of a babysitting device, I think.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics first recommended a ban on the manufacture and sale of infant mobile walkers in 1992. It renewed that call last fall, in the wake of a study that documented the drop in injuries.
“If you get to a staircase, you can tumble down, and many babies have. If you get to a swimming pool, you can tumble in,” Greenstein said. “You can hurt yourself in many different ways.”
The Senate Law & Public Safety Committee endorsed banning their sale in a 4-1 vote at its Feb. 14 meeting, with only state Sen. Declan O’Scanlon, R-Monmouth, opposed.
“The libertarian in me can’t possibly vote for what I consider to be a preemption of parental discretion and responsibility,” O’Scanlon said.
Canada has banned baby walkers, and Greenstein said some counties and municipalities in the United States. But New Jersey would be the first state to do, if the bill becomes law.
Allie Esielonis, an attorney representing the Mount Laurel-based Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association, said a state ban isn’t allowed under federal law and that safety improvements – such as making walkers wider than the size of a standard stairwell – have reduced emergency room visits for walker-related incidents by 90 percent.
“Injuries from infant walkers have been proactively addressed on multiple levels in recent decades,” Esielonis said.
Greenstein said it wouldn’t be preempted because the proposed ban doesn’t interfere with any aspect of federal regulations. Esielonis said she doesn’t think that’s the case.
“Multiple CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) attorneys in similar situations have deemed similar proposals to be federally preempted,” Esielonis said.
Violators who sell the walkers could be fined $10,000 for a first offense and $20,000 for subsequent offenses, if the bill were to become law.
The bill, S3122, isn’t listed for a vote at Thursday’s Senate session. The bill does not have an Assembly companion or sponsors in addition to Greenstein.