Jason Reynolds, The Murfreesboro Post, October 4, 2018
The widow of Dr. Robert Sanders, a Castle Heights Military Academy graduate who was known as “Doctor Seat Belt,” dedicated a historical marker in his memory last Monday to commemorate the doctor’s role in advocating for legislation that created the state’s – and nation’s – first child passenger restraint law.
The marker was unveiled outside the Rutherford County Health Department in Murfreesboro. The Health Department is named in honor of Sanders, who was its director from 1969-1991. He died in 2006.
More than 100 guests from state and local governments, medical professionals and others attended a ceremony at the Health Department to honor the pediatrician, who gained the nickname “Doctor Seat Belt” for advocating for Tennessee’s Child Passenger Protection Act, which took effect in 1978.
Patricia Sander, gave an emotional recount of how the couple became horrified at reports of children’s deaths in automobile accidents and cases where infants in optional car seats were saved in wrecks. They began their campaign with the late John Bragg in the state legislature to change attitudes around the state.
The Tennessee Highway Safety Office used the event to kick off observation of the annual National Child Passenger Safety Week. But it was Tennessee that first required infants and young children to be placed in restraint systems that meet federal safety standards, leading to other states passing similar laws, the THSO said in a press release.
Patricia Sanders cited a statistic from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that the bill that took effect in January 1978 has saved up to 12,000 babies.
“That’s the good news,” she said. “The bad news is it’s still the number one killer.”