Tennessee traffic deaths fall to 988 in 2013 - and more Chattanooga region news

Tennessee traffic deaths fall to 988 in 2013 - and more Chattanooga region news

January 7th, 2014 by Staff Reports and Wire Service in Local Regional News

Traffic deaths fall to 988 in 2013

NASHVILLE - Preliminary figures from the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security show the state had 988 traffic fatalities in 2013. That's only the fourth time in 50 years the number has dipped under 1,000.

The 2013 number is a more-than-2 percent decrease from 2012, when there were 1,015 traffic deaths.

In 2011, there were 937 traffic-related deaths on Tennessee roadways, the lowest figure since 1963.

In a written statement, Commissioner Bill Gibbons attributed the decline in fatalities to a focus on data-driven deployment of state troopers to have the maximum impact on DUI and seat belt violations.

Regents to discuss ban on smoking

ATHENS, Ga. - The board that governs Georgia's public colleges and universities is considering banning tobacco from campuses statewide.

The Board of Regents is scheduled to discuss the proposed tobacco ban at its meeting Wednesday in Atlanta. The ban would prohibit faculty, students, staff and even spectators at sporting events from smoking or using smokeless tobacco in both indoor and outdoor parts of college campuses.

The Athens Banner-Herald reported Sunday that the policy would tighten anti-smoking policies at campuses such as the University of Georgia, which has prohibited lighting up within 35 feet of building entrances since 2011.

Smoking in public buildings already is prohibited by state law, and it is banned from UGA's Sanford Stadium and other athletic facilities.

If adopted by the Board of Regents, the tobacco ban would affect all 31 campuses in the University System of Georgia and would take effect July 1.

The newspaper reported that other colleges in the area banned smoking on campus years ago.

Gainesville State College banned smoking in 2003, Piedmont College banned it in 2007 and Athens Technical College banned it in 2009.

Between 2010 and 2013, impaired driving fatalities fell more than 26 percent in Tennessee. Over the same period, state troopers increased the number of DUI arrests by more than 90 percent.

GOP to host 7 Senate debates

ATLANTA - The Georgia Republican Party is set to host seven debates across the state for candidates vying for Georgia's open U.S. Senate seat.

Party officials on Monday announced the scheduled debates, which will be held Jan. 18 in Adel, Feb. 1 in Kennesaw, Feb. 22 in Gainesville, March 8 in Macon, March 29 in Savannah, April 19 in Augusta and May 10 in Columbus.

Among the top GOP contenders are U.S. Reps. Paul Broun of Athens, Phil Gingrey of Marietta and Jack Kingston of Savannah, along with former Secretary of State Karen Handel and former Dollar General CEO David Perdue, cousin of former Gov. Sonny Perdue.

Democrat Michelle Nunn, daughter of former Sen. Sam Nunn, also is running. She reported raising more than $1.6 million in the final three months of 2013, bring her total fundraising to $3.3 million since she launched her campaign last July.

All are running for the Senate seat being vacated by Republican Saxby Chambliss, who plans to retire at the end of this year.

Inmate protests spread in Alabama

MONTGOMERY, Ala. - Nonviolent protests by inmates who say they are concerned about unsanitary conditions, overcrowding and small pay for their jobs have spread to other prisons in Alabama, though the protests remain small.

A Dothan minister who assists inmates said Monday the protests began Jan. 1 at St. Clair and Holman correctional facilities and now include Elmore and Donaldson prisons. The Rev. Kenneth Glasgow, executive director of The Ordinary People Society, said some prisoners in the institutions are refusing to do their assigned jobs in protest.

State Department of Corrections spokesman Brian Corbett said Holman Prison in Atmore had fewer protesters Monday, with eight refusing to work in the plant that makes state license plates. Glasgow said some returned to work because they have no family to provide them with money to purchase items they need in the prison.

Corbett said four inmates refused to work in the laundry at Elmore. Others were not working at the prison in Elmore county, but it was weather-related, he said. No inmates were working at jobs in St. Clair on Monday, but that was because of safety precautions after one inmate stabbed another, Corbett said. He said there were no reports of protests at Donaldson.

The Free Alabama Movement posted recorded interviews of inmates online. The inmates complained about conditions, including dirty dishes, birds flying around the mess hall, and beds separated by sheets of plywood rather than walkways because of overcrowded conditions.

The Alabama Department of Corrections is responsible for 31,338 inmates and has dealt with crowded conditions, as well as lawsuits over it, for many years.