'Tiffiany's initiative' honored with national award
|Christine Olson, state Rep. Bill Galvano, Electra Bustle, Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles executive director, and Steven Fielder, legislative affairs administrator of DHSMV. Islander Photo: Courtesy Rep. Galvano's office
Palma Sola resident Christine Olson was the guest of honor at a ceremony in Tallahassee with state Rep. Bill Galvano recently when the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles received a national award for its "Tiffiany initiative," allowing Florida motorists to have emergency contact information on their driver's license.
Following the loss of her daughter, Tiffiany Olson, in a motorcycle crash in December 2005, Olson began a statewide campaign to have emergency contact information available to law enforcement officials in the DMV computer system. It took the Florida Highway Patrol nearly seven hours to reach Olson that fateful night to inform her that her daughter had died because there was no emergency contact information accompanying her daughter's driver's license when the FHP checked Tiffiany's name with the DMV computer.
Those seven hours of not knowing what happened to her daughter or where she had been taken was an emotional trauma that Olson vowed should never again happen to a family.
Following a story in the March 15, 2006, Islander newspaper about Olson's initiative on behalf of Tiffiany, The Islander staff put Olson in touch with Galvano's office. Galvano embraced the project and persuaded the DMV to have Florida drivers voluntarily put such emergency information with their driver's license.
To date, more than 500,000 Floridians have registered their emergency information and 13 states have shown interest in the program. Olson would like to have 1 million people registered by Tiffiany's birthday on May 27.
But the Tallahassee presentation was a surprise for Olson, who had no idea the award was being presented and that she was the guest of honor.
"The award was really a surprise. I thought I was just going for a press conference with Galvano. Everyone was so excited. They were calling it ‘Tiff's initiative,' which I think is wonderful," she said.
Still, Olson wonders why more people haven't signed up.
"It's been stuck at 500,000 for some time. Maybe people just haven't gotten the word," she said.
But the DMV is doing its part to get more registrants.
Olson said the DMV was operating mobile units in Tallahassee and will visit each member of the Florida House and Senate to get them registered. The units will also travel throughout Florida to various locations to encourage signups.
While Galvano said he is still working to make the addition of emergency contact information mandatory on a Florida driver's license, Olson is pleased that at least 500,000 people will never have to go through what she experienced.
And they can do more to help.
"If every one of the 500,000 people told another person, we would get 1 million people registered easily. And they would be helping other people," Olson said.
Olson, who along with Tiffiany worked at the Rod & Reel Pier in Anna Maria for a number of years, said the award wasn't about her, but Tiffiany and her memory.
"I had never done anything like this in my life," she said. Getting a state procedure in place was "nothing I was familiar with, but it kept me going, kept me focused. It's all about Tiffiany and hoping this won't happen again to someone," she said with emotion.
The DMV Web site has a link where people renewing a driver's license on line can input their emergency contact information. To register, go to www.toinformfamiliesfirst.com. Interested motorists can also add their emergency contact information in person at a DMV office.
Olson noted that the first letter of each word in the Web site spells "TIFFF," which is a fitting tribute to her daughter.