The Occupant Protection Team recently held their annual meeting and participated in an agency-sponsored Capital Area Child Passenger Safety Update in Tallahassee. Front Row (L to R): Nelvys Hernandez, Robert Mazza, Lucy Papp, Reggie Edwards Back Row (L to R): Pat Bradley, Dawn Tomlinson, Wanda Diaz, and Kim Jones.
This year marks the ten year anniversary of the Florida Highway Patrol’s popular, award-winning Occupant Protection Program. The program started with a simple plan to build a team of Occupant Protection Specialists that help protect children, teens, and adult motorists in our state. The team is designed to help raise public awareness on the importance of safety belts and child restraints and safe driving practices among motorists in Florida.
The plan came together when a statewide coordinator came on board to manage the program and a group of FHP troopers were selected to participate. A federal grant was written to fund the new program and provide the necessary training, safety equipment, supplies, and educational materials to support the effort. The team of Occupant Protection Specialists soon began their work to help prevent injuries and fatalities through their educational outreach efforts across the state. Thanks to the support of our agency management, the hard work of a dedicated group of team members, and to the federal funding provided by our safety partners at the Florida Department of Transportation, the program continues its status as a valuable service for our agency’s customers.
Each year, the Occupant Protection Team conducts safety presentations for nearly 200,000 members of the public and gives over 3,000 teen driver safety demonstrations. Since 2001, the team has served over two million Florida motorists, educated more than 700,000 parents and caregivers on proper installation and use of child restraints and distributed over 75,000 child seats and boosters to needy Florida families who could not afford to purchase them for their children.
Each member of the Occupant Protection Team is responsible for setting up safety events, presentations, and demonstrations to serve the public in the counties of their respective troops. Team members regularly conduct safety talks and presentations using rollover simulators and seat belt convincers, fatal vision goggles, and other safety equipment and materials to demonstrate the need for safety belts or the dangers of DUI, cell phone use, and texting while driving among teens at area high schools and adult motorists. In addition to being experts in traffic safety education, all team members are nationally certified child passenger safety technicians or instructors, who serve as subject matter experts in their geographic areas and regularly conduct child seat inspections and installations for the public as well as distribute child seats to needy Florida families.
Our goal is to reach out to as many customers in as many communities, schools, and safety venues as possible to talk about and demonstrate the importance of safety belts, child restraints, and safe driving practices. The Occupant Protection Program has truly become an integral part of our agency’s safety educational outreach and has made a real difference in helping to fulfill our agency’s mission of a safer Florida.