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Doctor Seatbelt's landmark act remembered

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Gov. Phil Bredesen recalled the work of the late Dr. Robert Sanders.
This month marks the 30th anniversary of the nation’s first child safety seat law. Tennessee was the first state in the nation to enact a law making it mandatory for children to be restrained in a safety seat.

More than 30 years ago, Dr. Robert Sanders of Murfreesboro became a passionate advocate for child safety and led the effort to protect children while riding in automobiles. Senator Douglas Henry, the late Representative John Bragg and former Representative Mike Murphy sponsored legislation to make Tennessee the first state to require the use of safety seats for child passengers. The law became effective on January 1, 1978.

“Tennessee has always been a visionary place, and the people of Tennessee have always known that nothing is more important than the safety and well being of our children,” said Governor Phil Bredesen. “We are extremely proud that Tennessee was the first state with a child safety seat law and led the way for the nation. Within six years, every other state in the country had followed our example with a similar law to save children’s lives.”



Today, Tennessee is one of only 18 states that currently require children up to the age 8 to be restrained in a booster seat. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) estimates that 8,700 lives nationwide have been saved by the proper use of child restraints.

According to preliminary figures, 12 children under the age of five were killed in car crashes In Tennessee in 2007. One-third of them were not restrained. Studies show child seats reduce the likelihood of an infant (under one year old) being killed in a vehicle crash by 71 percent and toddlers (one to four years old) by 54 percent.

“Children are our most valuable resource,” stated Colonel Mike Walker. “Child safety restraints save lives, and it’s incumbent upon us as parents, grandparents and caregivers to take care of our children. Chances are, no one would ever intentionally put a child at risk, but that’s exactly what happens when young passengers are improperly restrained”

AAA has released a survey to coincide with the 30th anniversary of Tennessee’s first-in-the-nation child safety seat law, indicating who parents trust for information about their child’s safety. More than half of all parents (54%) look to their state law for guidance on how to restrain their children. While a strong majority (93%) of parents surveyed said they are aware of their state’s child restraint laws, and most (86%) feel that these laws should be consistent across the country; less than half (39%) can accurately identify the age at which their state allows a child to ride in an automobile with only a lap and shoulder belt.

“These results send a clear and powerful message to state legislators across the country,” said Tim Wright, President and CEO of AAA East Tennessee. “Parents look to the law to provide guidance about when and how their children should be restrained. Tennessee was the leader in this issue 30 years ago and continues to press forward. Here in Tennessee we have some of the best child restraint laws in the country. AAA works hard to support legislation that will keep our children safe.”

AAA was a major supporter of the 2003 enactment of the “Booster Seat” law. Tennessee’s booster seat law is second to none in the nation. The law requires children ages four through eight, and under 4’9” to be secured in a belt positioning booster seat, requiring both lap and shoulder belts.

AAA launched a “Seated, Safe and Secure” campaign in 2002 to raise awareness of child passenger safety and strengthen occupant protection laws for everyone under age 18. AAA believes that closing the loopholes in existing state laws and educating the public about the proper use of safety seats and restraints for children is the key to preventing child passenger injuries and deaths. AAA actively promotes child passenger safety at all levels – from training safety seat technicians and hosting safety seat events in local communities to federal lobbying and service on the National CPS Board.

Keeping children safe doesn’t end with the passage of laws. While 98% of America’s infants and 89% of children ages 1 to 3 are now regularly restrained, a 2006 NHTSA study shows that 72% of parents are not using car seats correctly. This is especially true for many children ages 4 through 7. Agencies across the nation provide assistance to parents who want to check the installation of their child’s car seat. In the United States, there are more than 31,000 certified technicians and instructors who participate in free car seat checks. In Tennessee, parents and caregivers can call (615) 232-2901 to locate a certified technician in their area.

AAA Clubs of Tennessee advocate for the safety of all passengers. Today we are seeing marked progress in child passenger restraint legislation, improvements in car seat technology and more.

AAA Clubs of Tennessee serve more than 500,000 members and non-members with insurance, automotive, travel, traffic safety and financial services. For more information, visit AAA.com.
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Members Opinions:
January 18, 2008 at 12:00am
Would be wonderful now to see TN make the first SCHOOL BUS SEAT BELT law. Not only would our children be safer, but wouldn't that decrease problems with discipline also?
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