Mother fights to remember daughter with new law
Christine Olson holds a picture of daughter Tiffiany, 22, who was killed along with friend Dustin Wilder in a motorcycle accident last December. Christine is an employee of the Rod & Reel Pier as was her daughter, and Tiffiany also worked at the Island Animal Clinic. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin
Click here to download a copy of the petition.
A Palma Sola mother is trying to get a law passed in memory of her daughter, a former staff member at the Rod & Reel Pier in Anna Maria, who was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident in Palmetto last December.
The law she seeks will possibly prevent others from suffering what she did after that accident - agonizing hours without knowing what happened or where her daughter was.
Christine Olson said it took the Florida Highway Patrol nearly seven hours to contact her last December to tell her that her daughter, Tiffiany, 22 years old, had died in the accident.
The FHP had no emergency contact information for her daughter’s family, information that could easily have been put into the bar code of a Florida driver’s license and accessed by law enforcement.
With that information encoded in the license, said Olson, "The FHP could have just swiped her license through the computer in their vehicle and it would have come up with my phone number and those of other family members."
As it was on that fateful evening, Christine got a call around 9 p.m. from her son, who had only "heard from a friend of a friend" that Tiffiany had been in an accident and had been taken to Manatee Memorial Hospital.
Even when she got to the hospital, staff members knew nothing about the accident or where her daughter was. Efforts to reach the FHP were fruitless.
She waited desperately at the hospital for another four hours until a FHP trooper arrived about 1:30 a.m. to give her the sad news. The accident had taken place the previous evening at 7 p.m.
Her daughter never made it to the hospital, but was killed instantly and her body had been taken to the medical examiner’s office, which had already closed.
"For a parent to have to go through that is terrible. What if she had been alive? I would not have been able to spend at least a few moments with her because the FHP didn’t know how to reach me."
Tiffiany’s companion and the driver of the motorcycle, Dustin Wilder, was alive at the crash scene and was flown to Bayfront Medical Center, but it was many hours later and he had died before his mother knew of his whereabouts.
Since that fateful night, Olson, who has worked at the Rod & Reel Pier seven years, has embarked on a campaign to have people sign a petition asking for a law requiring emergency contact information on a driver’s license.
Olson said she understands that Illinois already has this information encoded into a driver’s license and she’s asking area residents to help her push a similar law through the Florida Legislature.
She noted that the same thing happened to an Island resident last November. The FHP took nearly seven hours to inform the man that his wife and granddaughter had been killed in a car accident.
"Obviously, this kind of thing is happening throughout Florida to other families," she said.
The drive to get signatures on the petition has reached the attention of State Rep. Bill Galvano, where Legislative Assistant Jennifer Foster said Olson’s idea appears to have merit.
Olson’s proposal could be added as an amendment to legislation pending in the Florida House of Representatives on traffic safety, said Foster, who planned to help Olson as much as possible.
If the drive to change the law fails this year, Olson said she’d push for a new piece of legislation at the next session of the Florida Legislature.
"I talked to the head of the department of motor vehicles and he said it was a good idea. If we take a stack of petitions to the Florida Legislature asking for this law, maybe we can get something done."
In fact, she said she’s learned that her idea is very easy to input into the computers in law enforcement vehicles. All it takes is a computer upgrade, according to her information. "I’m surprised that with all the computer technology available, no one has ever thought of this before," she added.
Olson has received support from a number of law enforcement officers on both the Island and the mainland, and she’s hoping the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office will get behind her proposal.
The petitions have been circulating throughout the Island and Commissioner Christine Tollette of Anna Maria and Commissioner David Zaccagnino of Holmes Beach have pledged to help get signatures. To date, about 800 people have signed the petition, with more coming in every day.
"I’ve never done anything like this in my life," said Olson. "It’s nothing I’m familiar with, but it keeps me going, keeps me focused. It’s all about Tiffiany and hoping this won’t happen again to someone. It shouldn’t happen to anyone," she said with emotion.
Anyone interested in signing the petition or helping circulate the petition for signatures, or who can help push the idea for the Tiffiany Olson Bill through the legislature, is asked to call Christine at 795-1869.
Copies of the petition are also available at The Islander offices at 5404 Marina Drive in the Island Shopping Center and online at www.islander.org for anyone interested in signing or circulating them.