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Driver Opinion Survey

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COURTESY, SERVICE, AND PROTECTION -These three words are the motto of the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) and form the foundation of the largest statewide law enforcement agency in the State of Florida. The Patrol, when formed in 1939, employed only 60 troopers. Today, as a part of Florida’s Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV), the Patrol employs over 2,200 members with over 1,700 being troopers.

The Patrol is commanded from its headquarters located in Tallahassee, Florida. Major components of the Patrol include ten field troops located throughout the state, the FHP Training Academy, and the Bureau of Investigations. Troopers have statewide jurisdiction in enforcing all Florida laws and are specifically tasked with the enforcement of traffic laws, investigation of traffic crashes and car theft, removal of contraband from the highways, and prevention of violence on the highways.

Troopers are responsible for patrolling over 60,000 miles of state and county roads. Currently, Florida has over 13 million licensed drivers and annually attracts over 48 million tourists. The Florida Highway Patrol’s motto reflects the commitment of the Patrol and its members to provide courteous service and protection to Florida’s citizens and visitors. The Florida Highway Patrol is authorized and assigned its duties and responsibilities in Chapter 321 of the Florida Statutes.

The Patrol is committed to providing the highest quality law enforcement services to Florida’s citizens and visitors. Input from citizens into the Patrol’s direction, strategies and priorities is always welcome and often solicited. The survey that forms the basis of this report is one example of the Patrol’s efforts to involve its constituency in determining how to allocate its resources.

Florida State University Survey Research Laboratory

Faculty Director,
Charles Barrilleaux, Ph.D.
Research Director,
Joe Eyerman, Ph.D.

The Survey Research Laboratory (SRL) is a part of the DeVoe Moore Center in the College of Social Sciences at Florida State University. The DeVoe Moore Center is an interdisciplinary unit devoted to research and public service relating to questions confronting government agencies and nonprofit organizations in Florida.

The SRL provides state and local governments, nonprofit organizations, and the faculty of Florida’s public universities with the most advanced research services in the area of survey research. Services include questionnaire design, sample design and generation, data collection, data entry and coding, and data analysis.

Since its inception in 1978, the SRL has conducted over 200 surveys. This organization and its members are dedicated to promoting the public service goals of the Florida State University in extending services to state government agencies.

The SRL employs approximately 200 interviewers on both part-time and full-time schedules. The lab also employs a full staff of supervisors and statisticians.

Phone interviews are conducted on the 50 Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI) call stations. Calls are made during peak day and night hours seven days a week. This gives the lab the capacity to manage multiple simultaneous surveys. Mail surveys are entered using the scripting techniques in our CATI systems.

In conducting surveys, The SRL and its staff adhere to the Code of Professional Ethics and Practices of the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR). The professionals associated with a client’s projects are also dedicated to adapting the sophisticated research techniques used in academic research for use in answering questions facing state, regional, and local governments.

Information about the SRL, its services and or data, can be obtained by contacting:

Dr. Joe Eyerman
Survey Research Laboratory
Policy Sciences Center
Florida State University
Tallahassee, FL 32306-2018

A complete set of the data produced by this survey can be obtained by visiting the SRL's web-site at www.fsu.edu/~survey


Upon his appointment as Director of the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) in March of 1998, Colonel Charles C. Hall made a commitment to ensure that Florida’s motoring public had a voice in setting the Patrol’s highway safety strategies. One specific task identified by Colonel Hall was to conduct a survey to determine how the Patrol is perceived and how the public prioritized current highway safety issues.

In August of 1998, FHP contracted with the Survey Research Laboratory at Florida State University to conduct a mail survey of Florida’s drivers. The survey contained three basic sections: measures of FHP’s professionalism, identifying and prioritizing highway safety issues, and basic demographic information from the respondent. A random sample was taken from the Division of Driver License’s driver record files. In February 1999, a survey instrument was sent to each of the persons identified in the sample list. A total of 3,999 instruments were sent with 1,333 going to each of FHP’s three regions. In March of 1999, 1,162 instruments were sent to a random sample of households that had not responded to the original mailing.

A total of 996 surveys were returned completed. Discounting for surveys that had been returned to sender, a response rate of 30.2% was achieved. The number of completed surveys means that the responses to each question are expected to fall within +/-3.17 percentage points of the true state population of licensed drivers. Regionally, the margin of error was +/-5.35% for the North region, +/-5.25% for the Central region, and +/-5.92% for the Southern region. The Patrol’s geographic regions are depicted on page 13.

The Patrol scored very well on the measures of professionalism. The Patrol was given a favorable response by at least 73% of the respondents on all six measures. The highest rating was for Professional Appearance, with 93% of the respondents providing favorable responses. The professionalism ratings for the Patrol remained favorable across age groups, races, and geographic regions. Also, for those respondents that reported having contact with FHP employees in the past three years, 73% reported that the experience was positive or very positive. (See pages 5-7)

The three highway safety issues that respondents most often identified as needing additional emphasis by the Patrol were Aggressive Driving/Road Rage, DUI, and Speeding. To a lesser degree Unsafe Motor Vehicles, Transportation of Illegal Drugs, and Assisting Motorists in Need were identified. It should be noted that Running Red Lights, identified by 40 respondents, was the most popular write-in issue. (See page 8)

Expected response times were surveyed for several scenarios. The average expected response times ranged from 12.1 minutes for a traffic crash with death or injury to 43.8 minutes for a stranded motorist waiting on a county or local road (See page 9). Patrol records indicate that, for July 1998 through April 1999, the average response time to traffic crashes was 28.7 minutes and response time to other calls for service was 23.3 minutes. The Patrol does assign a higher priority to traffic crashes than most other calls for service. The lower response time for other calls for service occurs due to other calls being far more likely to be referred to another agency if no trooper is immediately available to respond.

Other issues surveyed included the level of concern that respondents had about being involved in a traffic crash or being the victim of a crime while traveling on Florida’s roadways. Respectively, 73% and 69% of respondents indicated some level of concern. 92% of the respondents favored Florida’s mandatory helmet law for motorcyclists. Also, 65% of the respondents were in favor of raising the vehicle registration fee $2 to provide for more troopers and equipment.

The Florida Highway Patrol sincerely appreciates the respondents for the time they took out of their busy lives to complete the survey. As a statewide law enforcement agency it is difficult to ensure that we are serving the citizens to the best of our abilities. The information that was gathered as a part of this survey provides a basis for establishing the Patrol’s direction and priorities as we move into a new millennium. Also, the positive results and comments will serve as a source of pride for all FHP employees.

Overall Job Performance Rating


Overall, how would you rate the job performance of the Florida Highway Patrol in your area?

The Florida Highway Patrol scored very well on the six measures of professionalism. Figure 1 depicting the breakdown of responses to the question of the Patrol’s job performance is typical for all measures of professionalism. The Patrol received favorable responses from at least 73% of the respondents on all six measures. The best score was for Professional Appearance, with 93% of respondents providing a favorable response (See Table 1).

Favorable Responses on Measures of Professionalism

 PercentResponse Category
Overall Job Performance80.8%Good or Excellent
Professional Appearance93.0%Good or Excellent
Attitude of FHP Employees 75.2%Good or Excellent
Demeanor of FHP Employees 73.2%Good or Excellent
Job Competence of FHP Employees 84.0%Agree or Strongly Agree
Experience with FHP Employees 72.9%Positive or Very Positive

Overall Job Performance Rating by Age


Professionalism ratings for the Patrol were consistent across age ranges and races of respondents. The breakdown of responses to the Patrol’s overall job performance with respect to age and race are depicted in Figure 2 and Figure 3, respectively. Again each age range and race responded with highly favorable rating for the patrol with similar results attained for the remaining five measures of professionalism.

Overall Job Performance Rating by Race


Reaction to Recent Encounter with FHP Employees


If you had any direct contact with the Florida Highway Patrol within the past three years, how would you describe your experience?

272 respondents indicated that they had contact with the Patrol in the past three years. 73% of whose respondents considered their contact with the Patrol to be a positive or very positive experience (see Figure 4, above for a complete breakdown of responses). The Patrol is very proud of this fact considering almost 20% of the respondents indicated that they had been issued a citation. In fact, one respondent wrote, "Although I have a ticket for speeding, the FHP does an outstanding job."

Type of Encounter for those Respondents Reporting Contact with FHP Employees
in the Previous Three Years (Percent of Total)

Traffic Accident30.4%
Criminal Case1.9%
Traffic Violation – Citation Issued19.3%
Traffic Violation – Warning Issued16.7%
Provided Assistance15.2%

Highway Safety Issues That Need Increased
Emphasis by The Florida Highway Patrol
(Respondent asked to check all that apply)


In which areas would you like to see an increase in enforcement/emphasis on Florida’s roads?

The respondents were given eleven of the most common duties and responsibilities of the Patrol and were asked to indicate all areas that they felt needed increased emphasis by the Patrol. Respondents were permitted to check-off as many of the choices as they felt were appropriate. The percentages shown indicate the percent of respondents that felt that the particular issue needed additional emphasis. The total of the percentages will therefore exceed 100%. The six most frequent responses are shown in Figure 5. It should be noted that respondents were given the opportunity to write in any issue that they felt needed increased emphasis in addition to the eleven listed issues. Forty respondents wrote in running red lights, which is a significant finding.

Response Time
(in minutes)


Respondents were surveyed to determine what they considered an appropriate response time by the Patrol to different types of incidents. The average times ranged from 12.1 minutes for a traffic crash involving injury or death to 43.8 minutes for a motor stranded on a county or local road. Figure 6 shows the average time, in minutes, those respondents expected to wait for each incident. Patrol records indicate that, for July 1998 through April 1999, the average response time to traffic crashes was 28.7 minutes and response time to other calls for service was 23.3 minutes.

Caution should be taken in interpreting the results of this data. First, the information desired was the amount of time the respondent would want to wait for assistance. However, the question asked for how long the respondent would expect to wait for assistance. It is possible that some respondents indicated their estimate of the Patrol’s current response time. This assumption is supported by one respondent’s comment stating, "Not knowing about troopers schedule on those highways my answer are not factual." Second, for stranded motorists, respondents were given an additional condition in that they were unable to call for help. Therefore, the times given would include an estimate of the number of minutes between the time the respondent became stranded and when the FHP was actually notified. The actual response time for troopers does not begin until a call for service is received by the Patrol. Lastly, FHP’s records separates response rates by traffic crash and other calls for service. Included with stranded motorists in other calls for service would be incidents of highway violence and vehicle fires, among others.

Concern While on Florida's Roadways
by FHP Region


I am very concerned about being involved in a traffic accident while traveling or stopped along Florida’s roadways.

I am very concerned about being a victim of a crime while traveling or stopped along Florida’s roadways.

Respondents were presented with the above statements and asked to identify their level of agreement with the statements. Figure 7 depicts those respondents that indicated they agreed or strongly agreed with the statements. The level of concern, for both scenarios, tended to be higher for respondents from the Patrol’s Southern region. However, the majority of respondents from each of the three regions expressed some level of concern. The Patrol’s geographic regions are depicted on page 13.

Regarding these issues one respondent wrote, "Give them all the support and extra troopers needed. Without their presence we would not be able to drive on the road anywhere in the State."

Favorable Responses on General Public Opinion Questions

 PercentResponse Category
Respondent favors the Florida law requiring all motorcyclists to wear a helmet. 91.7% Favor
Respondent supports a $2 increase in vehicle registration fees to pay for troopers. 64.6% Yes

The survey inquired into whether respondents favored or opposed Florida’s mandatory helmet law for motorcyclist. Ninety-two percent of respondents indicated that they favored the law. In comments, two respondents expressed a feeling that the use of helmets should be a matter of choice not law. However, one of those respondents went on to say, "Insurance companies should not pay for those who do not wear protection."

Respondents strongly endorsed the idea of increasing Florida’s registration fee by no more that $2 annually to provide for more troopers and equipment for FHP. As reflected in Table 3, nearly 65% responded yes to the increase. Another 16% said maybe. Many respondents provided comments related to this question. A few of those comments are given below:

"I definitely feel there is a need for more FHP and would even pay $5.00 a tag if it will provide a safety net by having more officers."

"I realize that for the service I’ve checked off you need more money. That’s fine. I’ll pay more taxes if need be."

"I would be glad to pay additional taxes to increase the FHP, if I know for certain that the money raised would go for what it is supposed to go for."

"More troopers are needed all over the state and even a five dollar tag renewal fee increase would not be too much if it is earmarked for troopers and equipment."

"Overall, I think the FHP does a good job, but they need more personnel and equipment."


Age Percent of Total
Under 30 11.4%
31-40 15.5%
41-50 17.8%
51-60 18.5%
Over 60 36.8%
Average Age - 53
Minimum Age - 15
Maximum Age - 85
Gender Percent of Total
Male 50.4%
Female 49.6%
Race Percent of Total
White 87.4%
Black 6.0%
Hispanic 5.3%
Asian 1.3%
Primary Purpose for Driving Percent of Total
Commuting 64.9%
Commerce 3.5%
Recreation 31.5%

Northern Region

Troop A - Panama City P.O. Box 15729, 32406-5729 (904) 872-4150

Troop B - Lake City 2402 US 90 West, 32055 (904) 758-0515

Troop G – Jacksonville 7323 Normandy Blvd, 32205 (904) 695-4115

Troop H – Tallahassee 2100 Mahan Drive, 32308-6199 (904) 488-8676

Central Region

Troop C – Tampa P.O. Box 90247, 33804-0247 (813) 632-6859

Troop D – Orlando P.O. Box 140193, 32814-0193 (407) 897-5959

Troop F – Bradenton P.O. Box 20009, Braden River Branch, 34203 (941) 751-7647

Southern Region

Troop E – Miami 1011 NW 111th Avenue, 33172 (305) 470-2565

Troop K - West Palm Beach P.O. Box 16007, 33416 (561) 640-2831

Troop L – Lantana P.O. Box 8148, 33465 (561) 540-1146

Survey Methodology

The Florida Highway Patrol Driver Opinion Survey was a mail survey conducted using the Dillman Total Design Method (TDM). The study population was all licensed Florida drivers in January of 1999. A random sample of this population was drawn from the files maintained by the Division of Driver License of the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DDL).

A sample of 3,999 was drawn in order to meet two goals. First, the Patrol wanted to stratify the sample by region in order to achieve a per question precision of +/-3.5% at the state level and +/-5% within each region. This goal required approximately 400 completed surveys from each region. The Patrol’s geographic regions are depicted on page 13.

Second, the information contained in the DDL files was expected to be inaccurate for a large percentage of the sample. This expected inaccuracy is due to the data collection process used by the DDL. Although the department requires license holders to update their records whenever information changes, most drivers only update their records when they are ticketed or when they renew their licenses. This process yields a list of study population elements that is filled with old and often incorrect addresses. This expectation was supported in the field. Of the random sample drawn from the DDL files, 17.6% were returned due to bad addresses.

The over-sampling process was designed to account for the bad addresses. However, due to delays in the generation of the list from DDL, the survey was put into the field late. This caused the FSUSRL to bypass standard TDM techniques in order to meet the deadline. Rather than send 3 progressive waves to the same sample, (full instrument, post-card reminder, full instrument) the FSUSRL sent two waves of the full instrument. The first wave was sent on February 17, 1999 to the full random sample of 3,999 households. The second wave was sent to a random sample of the households that had not responded nor had the survey returned to sender as of March 25, 1999. It was expected that this would expedite the collection of the surveys.

A total of 996 surveys were returned completed, with 702 returned to sender due to bad addresses. This produces a response rate of 30.2% for the state of Florida, with a per question precision of +/-3.17% with a 95% confidence interval. This means that the responses from the sample are expected to fall within +/-3.17 percentage points of the true state population of licensed drivers, with a 95% probability. The regional response rates and per question precision was 31.6% and +/-5.35% for the North region; 32.8% and +/-5.26% for the Central region, and 26.2% and +/-5.92% for the South region.

The response rate provides mixed evidence about the coverage of the survey. Research suggests that higher response rates can lead to better coverage of the sample. However, many of the techniques designed to increase response rates are not available for mail surveys. Those mail survey techniques that are available could not be used in this project due to time constraints and technical difficulties with the DDL data. In light of these issues, the response rates were acceptable and close to the levels reached in the majority of mail based survey research. Furthermore, a review of demographic characteristics of the respondents demonstrates that they share most of the characteristics of the population.


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