Tag Archives: safety

TN renews permit of faulty Ferris wheel operator

By Eric Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Worn out rivet fasteners on a Ferris wheel are being blamed for an overturned gondola at an eastern Tennessee fair that earlier this week sent three girls plummeting more than 30 feet to the ground.

The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development announced late Friday that it has renewed permits for the ride’s owner, Family Attractions Amusement, to resume operations at other fairs around the state. But the Ferris wheel is excluded from the permit.

Inspectors hired by the company and the Greene County Fair found that rivets had worn out on the bottom of the tub carrying the girls, allowing a trim piece to come loose and get lodged in the frame of the wheel and tipping the gondola over.

“Ride NOT safe to operate at time of inspection,” Frank Guenthner, an inspector hired by ride owner Family Attractions Amusement, wrote in his report.

The Ferris wheel, which inspectors say was correctly assembled at the site, is being sent back to the manufacturer for repair.

Tennessee does not conduct its own inspections of fair or amusement park rides, instead relying on third-party inspectors. The company was allowed to operate in the state based on an inspection made in Indiana in June. Continue reading

On a Ferris wheel flip and TN safety inspections

By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Investigators have not yet determined how a Ferris wheel seat flipped over at a Tennessee county fair, sending three children plummeting 30 to 45 feet to the ground. But the accident that left a 6-year-old girl with a traumatic brain injury sharpened the focus Tuesday on how carnival ride operators are regulated.

After a 2014 audit found shortcomings in Tennessee’s regulatory program for rides at fairs and amusement parks, state officials decided to get out of the inspection business altogether. Now, the state relies on private inspectors hired by operators and other states’ regulators to determine whether roller coasters, zip lines and Ferris wheels are safe.

Authorities said the three youngsters fell from the ride at the Greene County Fair in eastern Tennessee on Monday night.

In a follow-up to the audit last year, the agency said Tennessee law does not require the state to hire its own inspectors. Funding for the Amusement Device Unit was requested for the budget year ending in June but was denied. Continue reading

Purkey named new TN safety commissioner

News release from Department of Safety and Homeland Security
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced the appointment of David Purkey as commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security beginning September 1.

Purkey, 57, has served as the department’s assistant commissioner and homeland security advisor since 2011. Under his leadership, the Office of Homeland Security has transformed into a proactive agency, overseeing school security plans, training citizens and law enforcement agencies in active shooter response, and leading the state’s efforts to combat cybercrime.

From 2014-2016 Purkey served in a dual role as director of the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA). Continue reading

TN seat belt use increases to 88.95 percent

News release from the governor’s Highway Safety Office
TENNESSEE – The Tennessee Highway Safety Office (THSO) announces a significant increase in overall seat belt usage across the State of Tennessee, compared to the previous year. In 2016, a statewide average of 88.95% of front-seat vehicle occupants were observed wearing seat belts during an annual roadside observational survey study conducted by the University of Tennessee Knoxville’s Center for Transportation Research (CTR). In 2015, Tennessee’s statewide seat belt usage reflected an average of 86.23%, according to CTR.
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Bill Gibbons leaving as TN safety commissioner

News release from the governor’s office
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced Department of Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons will leave the administration at the end of the summer.

Gibbons has led the department since the start of the administration in 2011 and has also served as the chair of the Governor’s Public Safety Subcabinet. Under Gibbons’ leadership using a data-driven approach, traffic fatalities in Tennessee have decreased – five of the six lowest years in the last 50 years have happened under this administration. He also directed improvements to the driver services division, including the addition of new technology, that have resulted in the average wait time dropping from 35 minutes in 2011 to less than 20 minutes and better customer service for Tennessee taxpayers.
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Following ‘sexist’ flap, Haslam erases ‘governor’ from agency title

Gov. Bill Haslam has changed the name of the Governor’s Highway Safety Office, which got a fair amount of negative publicity last year, to the Tennessee Highway Safety Office through an executive order. The order also transfers oversight of the agency from the Department of Transportation to the Department of Homeland Security.

Executive Order No. 3, signed March 29 and effective April 1, is HERE.

Further from a Tennessean report on the move that gives some of the recent history of the former Governors Highway Safety Office:

The highway safety office generated controversy last year after launching a campaign that featured what some called a sexist approach to encouraging young men not to drive under the influence. The campaign used coasters and fliers with slogans designed to reach the “young male demographic,” the agency’s director Kendell Poole told The Tennessean at the time.

One version of drink coasters said, “Buy a drink for a marginally good-looking girl, only to find out she’s chatty, clingy and your boss’s daughter.”

A flier read, “After a few drinks the girls look hotter and the music sounds better. Just remember: If your judgement is impaired, so is your driving.”

Another aspect of the campaign mimicked graffiti found on the inside of a bathroom stall using a section of the highway safety office’s website.

The “Legends of the Stall” portion of the website featured behaviors such as binge drinking, promiscuity and cleaning up vomit with a cat. The website became inactive after The Tennessean initially reported about the campaign last July.

Senate panel kills previously-passed child safety seat bill

By Eric Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The state House Transportation Committee on Tuesday voted to kill a bill seeking to raise the mandatory age for toddlers to ride in rear-facing car seats from 1 to 2.

Democratic Rep. John Ray Clemmons of Nashville said his bill (HB1468) was aimed at bringing Tennessee up to date with recommendations of physicians and auto manufacturers, and ensuring that “kids up to the age of 2 — whose necks and bones have not fully developed — are protected.”

Rhonda Phillippi,, the executive director of Tennessee Emergency Medical Services for Children, told the committee that data indicates that children under age 2 are 75 percent safer in rear-facing seats.

“Having the seat backward makes the crash forces go across the back of the car seat, instead of the soft tissues of the child and their underdeveloped bone structure,” she said.

But the panel voted 9-8 to study the issue after the Legislature adjourns for the year, ending the progress of a bill that just weeks ago was poised for Gov. Bill Haslam’s signature.
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House backpedals on restraints for kids in cars

By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — An effort to update Tennessee’s car seat rules that had been headed for Gov. Bill Haslam’s signature was pulled back for renewed debate in the House on Tuesday over questions about whether it would increase the age that children would be required to ride in booster seats.

The chamber voted 64-26 to recall the bill sponsored by Democratic Rep. John Ray Clemmons of Nashville that easily passed both chambers earlier in the week. At issue is whether children need to ride in booster seats until age 8 or age 12.

Clemmons argued that the 12-year-old rule is already in state law unless children are taller than 4 feet 9 inches. But House Republicans argued the most common interpretation by law enforcement and the public is that the booster seat requirement ends at age 8.

“When you have a child that’s 12 years old and 4 foot 9 inches, putting them in a car seat doesn’t make much sense — they’re big enough to sit in a seat belt,” said Rep. Rick Womick, R-Murfreesboro. “It’s government trying to stick in their hand and fix something that’s not broke.”
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Legislature raises age for requiring kids in car seats

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Toddlers would have to ride in rear-facing car seats for an additional year under a bill passed by both chambers of the Tennessee General Assembly.

Democratic Rep. John Ray Clemmons of Nashville said the measure brings the state’s car seat laws up to date with the recommendations of physicians and auto manufacturers.

Current law requires rear-facing car seats until age 1; forward-facing car seats until age 3; and booster seats until age 8.

The bill (SB1674) would change those rules to require rear-facing seats until age 2; forward-facing car seats until age 5; and booster seats until children turn 12 or reach a height of 4-foot-9.

The Senate passed the bill on a 32-0 vote on Monday, while the House vote was 68-19. It now heads to Republican Gov. Bill Haslam.

Biker helmet repeal bill is back for 21st year

From a Richard Locker report:

For 20 years, a small cadre of motorcyclists — some in coats and ties, some in black leather jackets — have descended on the State Capitol asking lawmakers to repeal Tennessee’s mandatory motorcycle helmet law, which since 1967 has required all motorcycle riders to wear helmets on Tennessee streets and highways.

And every year, they’ve left in defeat, after successive heads of the Tennessee Highway Patrol, the state Department of Health, emergency room doctors and others present lawmakers the latest statistics on deaths and severe brain injuries suffered by motorcyclists in accidents without helmets — and on the costs of their medical care to taxpayers.

The fight resumes Tuesday, when the House Finance Committee is scheduled to vote on the latest bill, House Bill 700, which allows anyone 21 and up with medical or health insurance other than TennCare to ride without a helmet. The bill also prohibits police from issuing a citation for violating the helmet law unless a citation is issued for some other traffic violation.

Tennessee is one of 19 states plus the District of Columbia requiring all riders to wear helmets. Twenty-eight states require only underage riders, under either 18 or 21, to wear helmets. And Illinois, Iowa and New Hampshire have no laws at all requiring helmet use, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Most states enacted mandatory helmet laws the same year Tennessee did, after Congress required them to qualify for federal safety and highway funds. In the decades since, Congress has lifted the financial penalties, reimposed them and lifted them again.