Knox County gives reminder of back to school safety measures

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Knox County Schools and law enforcement in the Knoxville area are reminding drivers to start thinking about school zones now.

Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch said last year 900 citations were issued during the 2015-2016 school year for people driving unsafely in Knox County school zones. He said the most citations were issued during the first three days of school, finally topping at 100 citations issued on the third day of school.

“We need to make sure that everybody understands school is getting ready to be in session and what that means is our children are going to be out on the roadways, they are going to be walking in our neighborhoods, walking to bus stops and they are going to be walking to school. We need to be paying attention and watching out for our children,” said Chief Rausch.

Chief Rausch said officers will be focused on watching for motorists speeding or driving recklessly in school zones. He also issued a warning to all drivers urging them to not speed in schools zones, not drive recklessly and watch for children moving around in neighborhoods.

“We will be in those school zones. We will be enforcing the laws. It’s a warning, there’s no secret here. We’re going to be there. So when you come speeding through a school zone, don’t get mad at the officer because they pull you over and write you a citation,” said Rausch.

Knox County Interim Superintendent Buzz Thomas said the school system is working to make sure radios and two video cameras are on every bus. He said they are also making sure all bus drivers go through safety training. The school system put $1 million in their budget for the safety upgrades.

“Our job is to minimize the accidents and it’s still true that the safest way to get a kid to and from school is on a bus,” said Thomas.

Many of the changes were made after a school bus report that concluded there are too many crashes; not enough oversight and training; and the bus contractors, and consequently the drivers, are not being paid enough. Since the report came out Knox County Schools added a liaison to handle problems parents have with buses and bus drivers.

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“We’re working to create the best schools in the South and we can’t be the best schools if we aren’t the safest schools,” said Thomas. “Every single citizen has the responsibility to drive safely, to slow down when you’re around schools or around schools buses and remember that the life you save is somebody’s child.”

Knox County Schools Chief of Security Gus Paidousis says they expect to have an armed officer at every school. They’ve also elevated their standards and made training much more challenging for school resource officers.

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