The Occupant Protection Team: Reggie Edwards, Kim Miller,
Charlotte Thompson-Smith, Dawn Tomlinson, Lissa Udell,
and Kim Hackler (behind camera).
With the Occupant Protection Program just about to conclude its second year in September, FHP can celebrate the fact that the program continues to help put the Patrol in the positive spotlight. The popular traffic safety program, which officially began in 2001, continues to provide a highly successful and important service for the citizens of Florida. Each member of the Occupant Protection Team has done an outstanding job educating the public on a variety of traffic safety issues, which include child passenger safety, seat belt use—especially among teens and young drivers, pedestrian and bike safety, aggressive driving, and the dangers of drinking and driving.
In just two years, FHP’s OP Team has trained 134,165 Florida citizens & visitors (parents, grandparents, other caregivers) on the proper installation and use of child restraints, distributing over 30,000 child safety seats and booster seats to needy Florida families who could not afford to buy them for their children. In addition, FHP’s OP Team helped train 179 other public service agencies (EMS, Fire & Rescue, health care & hospital staff, and other law enforcement) from all across the state. Nearly 400 public information and media events (newspaper, radio, and television) were held promoting child passenger safety and seat belt use in the past two years. Finally, the OP Team conducted over 2,000 child safety seat checks and gave 680 school presentations to encourage seat belt use among teen drivers.
Each of the Occupant Protection Specialists on the team is responsible for administering child passenger safety and occupant protection activities for their respective troops, which includes conducting child safety seat checks and/or classes for the general public, health care workers, private and civic groups, and fellow law enforcement. In addition, the OP Team members coordinate and oversee traffic safety presentations designed for a variety of audiences, including elementary, middle, high school students, and adults on a variety of traffic safety topics. The OP Team members also serve as resources for other agencies on child passenger safety issues, working closely with their local Community Traffic Safety Teams and other safety organizations.
Trooper Lissa Udell shows this eager group of Lantana kids and parents why it is important to wear a seat belt...every time, every ride!
Trooper Charlotte Thompson-Smith demonstrates the Rollover Simulator!
All of the OP Team members work extremely hard every day educating parents and families about the importance of buckling up and putting their children in child safety seats. In addition, they keep FHP’s roll-over simulators quite busy, using them to educate the public on the importance of wearing a seat belt at all times.
Four of the Occupant Protection Specialist positions are made possible through a three-year $665,000 federal grant administered by the Florida Department of Transportation’s State Safety Office and managed by the Florida Highway Patrol’s Public Affairs Office. Kim Hackler,an OP Team member at GHQ, serves as project director, managing the grant as well as coordinating the Child Passenger Safety & Occupant Protection Programs for FHP statewide. Her job is to oversee the grants and personnel, obtain child safety seats for needy families, order supplies and additional educational items to support the program, as well as maintain records and track the success of the program. The other members of the team: Troopers Reggie Edwards, Charlotte Thompson-Smith, Dawn Tomlinson, Kim Miller, and Lissa Udell serve all the counties of their respective troops.
On a daily basis, through educational outreach activities, the Patrol’s OP Team helps ensure that the public knows that FHP continues its strong commitment to ensuring that all occupants ride safely on Florida’s roadways, especially our most vulnerable citizens—our children. Recent statistics continue to show that over 94% of all child safety seats are improperly installed. Now it is even more critical that law enforcement personnel help educate the public on the proper installation and use of child restraint devices.
FHP, recognizing the importance of this issue, makes available the OP staff and other FHP personnel who are certified CPS technicians to instruct parents on the proper installation and use of child safety seats and booster seats. Currently, FHP has sixty-two certified CPS technicians. In fact, every Troop across the state has at least one CPS certified technician who can assist the public in identifying unsafe and improperly installed child safety seats, offer low-cost replacement car seats for families in need, as well as offer resource materials with the most current information available on child passenger safety and occupant protection.
Thanks to the dedication and expertise of FHP’s hard working Occupant Protection Team, drivers and passengers traveling in Florida can ride a bit safer!