Local News Articles

New Permanent Drug Take Back Box Now Available in Alexandria

January 5, 2018
by: 
Dwayne Page
Lisa Cripps, DeKalb Drug Prevention Coalition Coordinator (center) drops off first bag of unwanted prescription medication at the new Alexandria drop box at city hall. She is joined by Alexandria Police Chief Chris Russell and Barbara Kannapel of the Smith County Drug Prevention Coalition

There’s a safe place for old prescription drugs, and it’s not in the medicine cabinet.

Thanks to the DeKalb Prevention Coalition, two permanent drop boxes are now available in DeKalb County for you to dispose of old or unwanted prescription medications in order to keep potentially unsafe medicine from hurting children, fueling drug abuse or polluting the environment.

The newest drop box location is inside the Alexandria City Hall building. It’s available to anyone during normal business hours at city hall but especially to residents in the Alexandria, Liberty, and Dowelltown communities. The other drop box is at the Smithville Police Department inside the City Hall building. It has been available to the public for over four years.

The drop-off points are part of the DeKalb Prevention Coalition’s effort to bring more awareness to safe medication storage and help citizens dispose of pills or other medications they don’t need anymore.

“The first step is to make people, especially parents, aware of the problem. If we’re able to help one family through education, awareness and the practical solution these drop boxes offer, it’s absolutely worth doing this program,” Lisa Cripps, Coordinator of the DeKalb Prevention Coalition told WJLE Thursday.

“Last fall we met with Alexandria Police Chief Chris Russell and asked if he would be interested in having a drop box for medications in the western end of our county. He said he would love to have that so we started the paperwork in the fall and we got approval of it by October. The drop box has been mounted at city hall and became ready for use in December. We deposited our first medications Thursday. I’m thrilled to have it there for the people of Alexandria, Liberty, and Dowelltown and even surrounding counties,” said Cripps.

According to Cripps, DeKalb County is fortunate to receive a second drop box.

“The state gets so much money every year for the drop boxes and you have to apply for those. They only awarded five or six this year across the state so we were really lucky to get one of those. We put our application in early and felt like we had a good chance for it,” she said.

“Having two drop box locations in this county is going to be wonderful. We have the one at the Smithville City Hall and its great. We have used it a whole lot and we will continue to use it a lot. But its really good to have one in the western part of the county close to where people in the rural areas don’t have to travel longer distances,” Cripps said.

“If anyone has a loved one who has passed away and they don’t know what to do with their prescriptions bag it up and bring it in to the Smithville City Hall or the Alexandria City Hall and dispose of that medication. We know that prescription medications are a part of everybody’s life but if it is unused or out of date, drop it off at one of our drop boxes to keep it environmentally safe,” Cripps concluded.

The DeKalb Prevention Coalition also helps sponsor a local effort on National Prescription Drug Take Back Day every April and October to encourage residents on those days to come out and drop off any unwanted, unneeded, or expired prescription medication for safe disposal at city hall in downtown Smithville.

No Further Local or State Investigation Expected in Agee Death

January 4, 2018
by: 
Dwayne Page
Lauren Agee

Unless new evidence surfaces, apparently no further investigation will be conducted by local or state officials into the death of a woman on Center Hill Lake in July 2015.

After being asked by District Attorney General Bryant Dunaway, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation reviewed the file in the death of 21 year old Lauren Agee but has not conducted any further investigation in the case. The DeKalb County Sheriff's department probe concluded that Agee was the victim of an accidental death.

Agee had reportedly been enjoying an outing with friends known as "Wakefest" at Pates Ford Marina in July 2015 and was camping near the edge of a steep cliff overlooking the lake prior to the tragedy. Investigators believe that Agee fell from the cliff into the water resulting in her death. Several hours later Agee’s body was found in the water by a fisherman near Still Point Boat Ramp across from Pates Ford Marina. A subsequent autopsy determined the death to be accidental.

Agee’s mother, Sherry Smith refused to accept the findings of the investigation telling a Nashville television station that she believed her daughter had been murdered.

In a prepared statement released today (Thursday), Sheriff Patrick Ray said while he favored another review of the case, his department has turned up no new evidence to support any indication of foul play in Agee’s death.

“In the last few months, District Attorney General Bryant Dunaway and I have talked about reopening the Lauren Agee case for review. Neither the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department nor the District Attorney General’s Office has obtained any factual information about the case since the case was closed as an accident”.

“I have not only agreed with reopening the case for review, I have encouraged it. My department has already, and will continue, to give any available resources that my department has to the District Attorney General’s Office, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, or any other Local, State and Federal Departments who want to look into not only this incident, but any other incident my department investigates”.

In a letter to Sheriff Ray received today (January 4), D.A. Dunaway wrote that “As you know, this office previously reviewed your department’s investigative case file regarding the death of Ms. Lauren Agee. As you are aware, I also requested the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to review your department’s file as well requesting that they advise me if they opine that any further investigative efforts would be helpful at this time. After careful consideration, I am requesting the investigation be closed”.

“There appears to be insufficient evidence to charge anyone with criminal responsibility for the death of Ms. Lauren Agee. Of course, if new evidence or information is discovered, the investigation can be reopened,” wrote D.A. Dunaway.

In a statement released in March 2017, Sheriff Ray said that through the investigation, it was found that Agee and her friends had been camping atop a narrow bluff across from Pates Ford Marina, where Lauren and another individual had tied their hammock. The body was found face-down in the water in slough behind the bluff where Agee’s hammock was found”.

“The medical examiners autopsy report concluded Agee’s death was accidental with the cause of death determined as “multiple blunt force injuries”.

The pathologist further informed the investigating detective that Agee’s injuries were consistent with a fall. The autopsy report further showed multiple injuries to the back of her head, spine, and back, and that drowning was a possible contributing factor to her death,” the statement continued.

Another review was later conducted by the family’s independent pathologist which reportedly found that Agee’s larynx was crushed. Smith told a Nashville TV station last year that she believes her daughter had been choked.

“As far as being choked, as a family member has claimed, the photographs taken during this investigation show no marks or bruising around Lauren’s neck, and the medical examiner’s report supports the detective’s findings. The medical examiner’s report stated the larynx was not crushed, but was intact,” said Sheriff Ray in his written statement last March.

Although he has no jurisdiction in DeKalb County, at least one off duty White County officer who apparently worked as private security for the marina that weekend has also questioned the results of the investigation. He raised the issue that an autopsy photo apparently showed an imprint on Agee’s midsection that could be the outline of the bow or stern of a canoe suggesting that Agee’s body may have been placed on a canoe after her death.

Sheriff Ray refuted the allegation stating that the imprint is identical to a TWRA boat storage lid where Agee’s body was placed face down during transport to the boat ramp.

“TWRA officers assisted the sheriff’s department detectives in loading the body onto a TWRA boat to transport the body back to the boat ramp. The body was placed face down on the side of one of the TWRA boats,” stated Sheriff Ray.

“There has been some question concerning a photograph taken by a DeKalb Sheriff’s Department detective, on the TWRA boat, showing a resemblance of a canoe mark on Lauren’s chest. After examining the photographs taken before transporting the body to the boat ramp, our investigation determined this mark is an identical match to the TWRA boat storage locker lid where the body was placed facedown during transport to the boat ramp,” Sheriff Ray stated.

"Lauren’s body was taken directly to the hospital in Smithville where investigators conducted further examination and made additional photographs of the body. The body was examined and photographed again. The photographs taken at the hospital did not show the storage locker lid imprint on Lauren’s chest,” Sheriff Ray continued.

“The body was then taken to Nashville to the state medical examiner’s office. Again, Lauren’s body was photographed and did not show any marks on her chest that resembled the claimed “canoe” mark,” he said.

Smith wants to know why Lauren’s friends at the campsite with her never reported her missing or contacted the family immediately after her disappearance. In 2016 she filed a $10 million wrongful death lawsuit against them which remains pending in court.

TDOT'S Proposed Highway 56 Improvement Project Still in the Making

January 4, 2018
by: 
Dwayne Page
Portion of Highway 56 South where pedestrian was struck and later died in July 2017

The Tennessee Department of Transportation still has plans to improve Highway 56 south in DeKalb County and into Warren County but construction is months away and will be done in three phases instead of two once it gets underway.

Plans for this overall project have been in the making for more than ten years.

Originally, TDOT planned to build a new four- lane highway from south of the Warren County line (in Warren County) to near Magness Road in DeKalb County but later changed the plans to a new two-lane road (typical section) with twelve foot lanes and ten foot paved shoulders and passing lanes along the 3.30 mile existing alignment.

TDOT’s plans still call for a new two-lane but the highway could eventually be expanded to four-lanes in the future.

“In the 3.3 mile section from south of the Warren County line to Magness Road TDOT will build two lanes of the future four-lane. We already acquired the property necessary to construct the four-lane road, and as future traffic warrants, TDOT will construct the remaining two lanes. As soon as the new Environmental Document is complete, we can let this section to contract,” Jennifer Flynn, TDOT Community Relations Officer told WJLE Thursday.

The second phase of the project is tentatively scheduled for a bid letting later this year.

“State Route 56 from near Magness Road to East Bryant Street in Smithville has property already acquired for a four-lane divided highway. We will build two lanes and as we approach town, tie to the existing five-lane. This project will have stream mitigation issues that we are trying to resolve now. This project is scheduled for a late 2018 construction letting,” said Flynn.

Meanwhile, a new section has been added to the project.

“We will add a new section south of the first project that will be a 1.3 mile widening project from near State Route 287 to south of the Warren County line. This will be included in the new Environmental Document. We will need to update survey data and start the preliminary plans. This section will have 30 to 35 tracts of property to acquire, and our Project Development Director said that it will likely be a stand alone project due to time to acquire the property and develop plans,” Flynn said.

School Board Appreciation Week Begins January 21

January 4, 2018
by: 
Dwayne Page
Danny Parkerson
Jerry Wayne Johnson
Jim Beshearse
Kate Miller
W.J. (Dub) Evins, III
Doug Stephens
Shaun Tubbs

Governor Bill Haslam has declared January 21-28, 2018 as School Board Appreciation Week in Tennessee.

"This week helps build awareness and understanding of the vital functions our locally elected boards of education play in our community," said Haslam.

The DeKalb County School System is joining public school districts from across the state to celebrate School Board Appreciation Week and honor local board members for their commitment to DeKalb County and its children.

"The school system is the backbone of our community, and these men and women devote countless hours to making sure our schools are helping every child", said Director of Schools Patrick Cripps.

"There is no greater honor that can be bestowed upon a citizen than membership on a local board of education. They spend countless hours studying the issues and regulations and make the tough decisions when called upon to ensure the type of accountability people expect," he said.

Director Cripps said the key work of school boards is to raise student achievement by: Creating a vision for what the community wants the school district to be and for making student achievement the top priority; Establishing standards for what students will be expected to learn and be able to do; Ensuring progress is measured to be sure the district's goals are achieved and students are learning at expected levels; Being accountable for their decisions and actions by continually tracking and reporting results; Creating a safe, orderly climate where students can learn and teachers can teach; Forming partnerships with others in the community to solve common problems; and Focusing attention on the need for continuous improvement by questioning, refining and revising issues related to student achievement.

͞"Our local school board shapes the future of education in DeKalb County by influencing the high-quality of education that our children and youth receive. The DeKalb County school board shows its commitment to educational excellence and equity and for that we are very grateful for their attitude of service," said Cripps

The members serving our district are as follow

First District: Danny Parkerson

Second District: Jerry Wayne Johnson

Third District: Jim Beshearse

Fourth District: Kate Miller

Fifth District: W.J. (Dub) Evins, III

Sixth District: Doug Stephens

Seventh District: Shaun Tubbs

Qualifying Deadline Six Weeks Away for Elections to County Offices

January 4, 2018
by: 
Dwayne Page

The qualifying deadline is six weeks away for candidates planning to run for county wide offices or positions on the county commission in 2018.

The last day candidates may qualify to run is NOON February 15, 2018. That applies to Democrats, Republicans, and Independents.

DeKalb County Democrats will be nominating candidates in a primary set for May 1. Republicans will nominate candidates by caucus (date not yet announced). Nominees of both parties and any independents will run in the August General Election. Winners will take office September 1 and serve for four years.

Thursday, February 1 is the deadline for sheriff candidates to file an affidavit of qualification with the Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission (POST) and for county road superintendent candidates to file an affidavit of qualification with the Tennessee Highway Officials Certification Board.

The following county offices are up for election in 2018: Road Supervisor, County Mayor, Circuit Court Clerk, Sheriff, Register of Deeds, County Clerk, and Trustee and for the county commission in each of the seven districts (two per district for a total of 14).

Those positions are currently held by the following:

Road Supervisor: Butch Agee- Republican (not seeking re-election)

County Mayor: Tim Stribling-Democrat

Circuit Court Clerk: Katherine Pack- Democrat

Sheriff: Patrick Ray-Republican

Register of Deeds: Jeff McMillen-Democrat

County Clerk: James L. (Jimmy) Poss-Democrat

Trustee: Sean Driver-Republican

Current County Commissioners:

First District:
Mason Carter-Republican
Julie Young-Democrat

Second District:
Jimmy Midgett-Independent
Joe Johnson-Democrat

Third District:
Jack Barton-Democrat
Bradley Hendrix-Democrat

Fourth District:
Wayne Cantrell-Democrat
Jonathan Norris-Democrat

Fifth District:
Anita Puckett-Democrat
Jerry Adcock-Republican

Sixth District:
Jeff Barnes-Democrat
Betty Atnip—Democrat

Seventh District:
Kevin Robinson-Democrat
Larry Summers-Democrat

Those who have obtained petitions to date are as follows:

*Bobby Johnson-County Commissioner, 3rd District (petition returned and verified)

*Beth Pafford-County Commissioner, 7th District

*Wayne Cantrell-County Commissioner, 4th District, Incumbent

*Joe Johnson-County Commissioner, 2nd District, Incumbent

*Larry Summers-County Commissioner, 7th District, Incumbent

*Mike Foster-County Mayor

*Tim Stribling-County Mayor, Incumbent

*Bradley Hendrix-County Mayor

*Kevin Robinson-County Commissioner 7th District, Incumbent

*Nora Harvey-County Commissioner 2nd District

*Jack Barton-County Commissioner 3rd District, Incumbent

*Scott Little-County Commissioner 4th District

*Jeff Barnes-County Commissioner 6th District, Incumbent

*Betty Atnip-County Commissioner 6th District, Incumbent (petition returned and verified)

*James L. (Jimmy) Poss-County Clerk, Incumbent (petition returned and verified)

*Jimmy Sprague-Road Supervisor (petition returned and verified)

*Jeff McMillen-Register of Deeds, Incumbent

*Nicole Wright-Circuit Court Clerk

*Mark Milam-Circuit Court Clerk (petition returned and verified)

*Julie Young-County Commissioner 1st District, Incumbent

*Bobby R. Taylor-County Commissioner 4th District

Republicans who plan to seek their party’s nomination include:

*Trustee Sean Driver, Incumbent
*Sheriff Patrick Ray, Incumbent
*Danny Hale for Road Supervisor
*Reed Edge for Road Supervisor
*Susan Martin for Circuit Court Clerk

Candidates for August School Board, City, and State Races Can Begin Picking up Qualifying Petitions Friday

January 4, 2018
by: 
Dwayne Page
Candidates for August School Board, City, and State Races Can Begin Picking up Qualifying Petitions Friday

Petitions for five school board seats and spots in all the county’s four cities will be available beginning Friday, January 5. That’s according to Dennis Stanley, DeKalb County Administrator of Elections.

“The school board and all city office holders run as non-partisan candidates so the qualifying deadline is different than the other county offices,” Stanley said. “Those candidates will not be on the ballot until August and no primary elections are held for those seats.”

Up for election will be school board seats in Districts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 7. Those positions are currently held by Danny Parkerson in the 1st district, Jerry Wayne Johnson in the 2nd district, Jim Beshearse in the 3rd district, Kate Miller in the 4th district, and Shaun Tubbs in the 7th district.

City seats up for grabs, pending any resignations/vacancies, are: In Smithville the Mayor and two aldermen seats currently held by Mayor Jimmy Poss and Aldermen Jason Murphy and Gayla Hendrix; in Dowelltown three aldermen seats (Brad Driver, Keith Farler, and Ron Griffith were elected to those positions in 2014); in Liberty the Mayor and five aldermen seats currently held by Mayor Dwight Mathis and Aldermen Dwayne Blair, Jason Ray, Howard Reynolds, Jr., J.D. Bratten, and Todd Dodd and in Alexandria the Mayor and three aldermen seats now held by Mayor Bennett Armstrong and Aldermen Matt Boss, Danny Parkerson, and Eddie Blair. Another alderman will be elected to fill a two year unexpired term. Mac Willoughby currently holds that position after the recent resignation of Kelly Pyburn.

Qualifying petitions for these races must be returned by Noon April 5.

In addition, candidates interested in running for the 17th Tennessee Senatorial District and State Houses 40 and 46 have the same qualifying deadline. Those positions are currently held by State Senator Mark Pody and State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver in district 40. The Wilson County Commission will convene January 10 to appoint a successor to Pody as State Representative of district 46 who will serve until the general election in November.

Following is a list of key dates related to the first two elections in 2018:
DeKalb County Democratic Primary, May 1, 2018
Petition date—Available now
Qualifying deadline—Noon February 15
Voter registration deadline—April 2
Early voting period—April 11 through April 26

County General Election, Municipal Elections, and Tennessee Primary August 2, 2018
Petition date—Available January 5
Qualifying deadline—Noon April 5
Voter registration deadline—July 3
Early voting period—July 13 through July 28

Many Suffering from Flu and Other Illnesses

January 3, 2018
by: 
Dwayne Page

Health officials in DeKalb County are urging more people to get vaccinations for the flu.

More than 440 people have been tested for the flu at the Family Medical Center and over one hundred cases have been confirmed, according to Office Manager Michiko Martin in a statement released to WJLE (Today) Wednesday. "Since November 1st, we have performed 442 flu tests. Eighty-nine have been positive for Type A and 17 have been positive for Type B. But, there have been others who have tested negative, yet had all of the symptoms of the flu, and they were treated accordingly," said Martin.

If you think you have the flu, Martin urges you to see your healthcare provider as soon as possible. "Most insurances require a positive flu test before they will pay for Tamiflu and it (Tamiflu) is only effective if given within 48 hours of onset of symptoms," she said.

Martin offers some tips to help you guard against the flu virus. "The best thing you can do to prevent the flu is to: (1) Get a flu vaccine when available (it takes up to 2 weeks to get into your system); (2) have good hand washing practices; (3) cover coughs and sneezes (use tissues or masks, if available); and (4) avoid crowded situations".

"We highly advocate getting the flu vaccine," said Martin. "People die from the flu not the vaccine. You cannot get sick from the vaccine; it is a dead virus. If someone gets sick after having the vaccine, then they have already been exposed to the flu (it takes 2 weeks to get into your system).

There are vaccines designed for the very young (6 months) and the elderly (65+). There are traditional vaccines which cover 3 strains of the flu virus and the newer quadrivalent vaccine which covers 4 strains. There is also an intradermal version that is given much like a TB skin test (right under the skin). We have given over 4200 flu vaccines this year. We started giving them as soon as we received them in August, but were not able to give them to Medicare patients until October 1 because Medicare would not pay for the vaccine until then. Most insurances will cover the vaccine, but people may have to check their individual coverages to know for sure," said Martin.

The predominant flu virus in circulation this year is H1N1, which first emerged in 2009. In Tennessee, 15 deaths among people younger than 18 occurred during the 2009-10 season, which compares with two or three deaths during a typical flu season, state health officials have said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone 6 months or older, with rare exceptions, should get vaccinated for the flu.

Influenza (also known as the flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by flu viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. The flu is different from a cold. The flu usually comes on suddenly. People who have the flu often feel some or all of these symptoms:

•Fever* or feeling feverish/chills
•Cough
•Sore throat
•Runny or stuffy nose
•Muscle or body aches
•Headaches
•Fatigue (tiredness)
•Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.
* It's important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.

Most people who get influenza will recover in a few days to less than two weeks, but some people will develop complications (such as pneumonia) as a result of the flu, some of which can be life-threatening and result in death.

Pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus and ear infections are examples of complications from flu. The flu can make chronic health problems worse. For example, people with asthma may experience asthma attacks while they have the flu, and people with chronic congestive heart failure may experience worsening of this condition that is triggered by the flu.

Anyone can get the flu (even healthy people), and serious problems related to flu can happen at any age, but some people are at higher risk of developing serious flu-related complications if they get sick. This includes people 65 years and older, people of any age with certain chronic medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease), pregnant women, and young children.

Flu is unpredictable and how severe it is can vary widely from one season to the next depending on many things, including:

•what flu viruses are spreading,

•how much flu vaccine is available,

•when vaccine is available,

•how many people get vaccinated, and

•how well the flu vaccine is matched to flu viruses that are causing illness.

•Person to Person

•People with flu can spread it to others up to about 6 feet away. Most experts think that flu viruses are spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Less often, a person might also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth or nose.

•To avoid this, people should stay away from sick people and stay home if sick. It also is important to wash hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub. Linens, eating utensils, and dishes belonging to those who are sick should not be shared without washing thoroughly first. Eating utensils can be washed either in a dishwasher or by hand with water and soap and do not need to be cleaned separately. Further, frequently touched surfaces should be cleaned and disinfected at home, work and school, especially if someone is ill.

•Most healthy adults may be able to infect other people beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick.

Children may pass the virus for longer than 7 days. Symptoms start 1 to 4 days after the virus enters the body. That means that you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick. Some people can be infected with the flu virus but have no symptoms. During this time, those persons may still spread the virus to others.

Over a period of 31 seasons between 1976 and 2007, estimates of flu-associated deaths in the United States range from a low of about 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people. During a regular flu season, about 90 percent of deaths occur in people 65 years and older.

UCHRA Commodities Recertification Begins Monday

January 3, 2018
by: 
Dwayne Page

The Upper Cumberland Human Resource Agency would like to remind those who receive assistance through the Temporary Emergency Food Assistance Program, known as Commodities; it is time for recertification of their commodities card. With 2018 deliveries right around the corner, it is very important for recipients to recertify their commodity card with their local county offices prior to the first pick-up date.

Recertification date starts January 8th. First Distribution is February 8th.

If you think you or someone you know qualifies for this program, please contact the UCHRA office in your county for more information.
The UCHRA County telephone: DeKalb County 615-597-4504

The Upper Cumberland Human Resource Agency does not discriminate on the basis of age, race, sex, color, national origin, religion, or disability in admission to, access to, or operations of its programs, services or activities.

“This project is funded under a Grant Contract with the State of Tennessee.”

Using Hand Held Cell Phones in School Zones Now Illegal

January 3, 2018
by: 
Dwayne Page
Jimmy Sprague, Transportation Supervisor for the DeKalb County School System

DEKALB COUNTY SCHOOLS TO REMAIN CLOSED THURSDAY AND FRIDAY DUE TO COLD WEATHER

With schools set to re-open on Monday, January 8th, motorists in school zones should be aware that talking on a cell phone with the device in hand is now illegal in an active school zone.

That not only includes talking on a phone, but texting or reading texts

The law states that it’s an offense — Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $50 — for a person to knowingly operate a motor vehicle in any marked school zone in this state, when a warning flasher or flashers are in operation, and talk on a hand-held mobile telephone while the vehicle is in motion.

However, the offense is not committed if the telephone is equipped with a hands-free device, for drivers 18 years of age and older.

A driver under age 18 is breaking the law talking either using a hands-free or handheld while driving through an active school zone.

Also as school starts again, motorists should also remember that the most dangerous part of a school bus ride is getting on and off and if they don't stop for buses when they're supposed to the potential for a tragic accident increases.

Jimmy Sprague, Transportation Supervisor for the DeKalb County School System and the Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP) remind motorists of the importance of school bus safety awareness and education.

"Riding the school bus is one of the safest modes of transportation; it's when children get on or off the bus that causes concern," said THP Colonel Tracy Trott. "That is why it is critical for parents, teachers, and school administrators to stress the importance of crossing in view of the school bus driver, and to instruct children on other safety tips that will keep them out of harm's way."

Each day, some 480,000 school buses transport more than 26 million children to and from school and school related activities, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. An average of 19 school-age children die in school transportation-related traffic crashes each year – five occupants of school buses and 14 pedestrians. Most of those killed are children five to seven years old.

Sprague reminds motorists to make sure to stop when school bus lights and stop signs are deployed as students get off and on buses in school parking lot loading zones and on roads, including four lane highways. " Highway 70 is considered a driveable median and when that bus accuates its stop sign and red lights, all four lanes east bound and west bound do have to stop. They don't proceed on until the stop sign is pulled in and the lights are off and the bus is proceeding on. When that happens, vehicles can move along also," said Sprague

The "danger zone" for a school bus is the area 10 feet around the vehicle; the two most dangerous places are the front and the right rear tire area of the bus. Children must take care when boarding or leaving the school bus by following these simple rules:

•Always remain in direct eyesight of the bus driver;

•Be alert to traffic. Check both ways before stepping off the bus;

•Make eye contact with the bus driver, and wait for the bus driver's signal before crossing the street;

•Walk in front of the bus; never walk behind the bus to cross the street;

•Never go under the bus to retrieve something you've dropped;

•Get to the bus stop in plenty of time.

"Educating children on school bus safety is a top priority, but we also want to remind drivers to slow down in school zones and obey the stop arm," said THP Colonel Trott. "Our troopers work diligently to enforce traffic laws in the school zone, and will penalize those who blatantly disregard laws designed to protect children."

In Tennessee and in every state, drivers must stop when the stop arm is extended and red lights are flashing.

All school bus drivers in Tennessee must attend an annual training course in order to receive and maintain the school bus endorsement on their Driver License.

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