Photo/Story Gallery 2004

Occupant Protection Has 3rd Successful Year

The Occupant Protection Team.The Florida Highway Patrol continues its efforts to ensure that all motorists, especially children, ride safely on Florida’s roadways through its popular Occupant Protection Program. The Florida Highway Patrol’s Occupant Protection Team remains steadfast in its commitment to make sure motorists buckle up and secure their children in proper child restraints, according to Florida law. The Occupant Protection Program, which started as a three-year, grant-funded initiative, has evolved into a vital part of FHP’s traffic safety education and public outreach efforts. The Program includes seat belt education, anti-DUI outreach efforts, and Child Passenger Safety education. Since recent statistics show that less than 70% of all motorists wear seat belts in Florida and 94% of all child safety seats in Florida are still improperly installed, it remains critical that law enforcement and other public safety personnel continue to help educate the public on the need for using seat belts and child restraint devices.

FHP recognizes the importance of this issue, and has renewed its commitment by ensuring that its Occupant Protection Team and the rest of its Child Passenger Safety Certified Technicians across the state are available to instruct parents on the proper installation of child safety seats and to answer questions regarding the use of child safety seats, booster seats, and seat belts. Currently, every FHP Troop across the state has at least one CPS Certified Technician available to check child safety seats for the public and provide car seats for needy children.

The OP Team members are located throughout five troops across the state: Troop C (Tampa), D (Orlando), E (Miami), G (Jacksonville), & L (Lantana). Each member stays busy providing seat belt education and safety demonstrations using FHP’s rollover simulators, giving anti-DUI presentations at area schools, conducting car seat checks and/or providing classes to assist the public, as well as serving as a resource, providing the public with information and materials containing the most current information available on child passenger safety and occupant protection. The OP team is an invaluable resource for FHP’s traffic safety efforts across the state.

Each of the Occupant Protection Team members is responsible for administering the child safety seat and occupant protection activities for their respective troops, conducting child passenger safety checks and/or teaching classes for the general public, health care workers, private and civic groups, and fellow FHP personnel. In addition, these troopers coordinate and oversee traffic safety presentations designed for a variety of audiences, including area elementary, middle school, and high school students, on the importance of safety belt use, child restraints, safe and sober driving practices, anti-aggressive driving, as well as bike and pedestrian safety. These troopers also serve as resources for other agencies on child passenger safety issues, and work closely with their local County Tax Collectors Office to promote the $2 Difference Program, a public donation program that provides child safety seats to needy Florida families.

In its first year, the Florida Highway Patrol’s Occupant Protection Team trained a total of 47,636 Florida citizens & visitors (parents, grandparents, other caregivers) on the proper installation and use of child restraints. In addition to offering this valuable hands-on training, the Occupant Protection Team participates in the statewide Child Safety Seat Distribution Program sponsored by the Florida Department of Transportation, by which FHP was able to obtain and distribute over 15,000 child safety seats and booster seats to needy Florida families who could not afford to buy them for their children. In 2001-2002, FHP’s Occupant Protection Team helped trained 79 different public service agencies (EMS, Fire & Rescue, health care & hospital, and other law enforcement) all over the state in child passenger safety using the National Highway Traffic Safety (NHTSA) approved curriculum (either the standard 8,16, or 32-hour formats) to encourage safe practices regarding child restraints, or to prepare additional agency personnel for national CPS certification so they could operate their own traffic safety programs. In addition, the Occupant Protection Team held 161 public information and media events (newspaper, radio, and television) promoting child passenger safety and the importance of seat belt usage. Finally, the Occupant Protection Team conducted 93 high school presentations using FHP’s rollover simulators and seat belt convincers to encourage seat belt use among teen drivers and passengers.

In 2002-2003, the program’s second year, FHP’s Occupant Protection Team was responsible for educating 86,528 members of the general public (parents, grandparents, and other caregivers) in the proper installation and use of child safety seats. In addition, the Occupant Protection Team again distributed over 12,000 car seats to needy Florida families and conducted 227 public information, media, or instructional events for other agencies on occupant protection and child passenger safety at county and state fairs, safety fairs, community events, in public service announcements specific to occupant protection and/or child passenger safety, displays, and advertised traffic safety events. In 2002-2003, the Occupant Protection Team conducted, supervised, or participated in a total of 1,908 separate organized child safety seat checks, events, classes, or group installation sessions for the citizens of Florida. The Occupant Protection Team conducted a total of 298 occupant protection and/or seat belt safety presentations or demonstrations (many with rollover simulators) at area schools (elementary – high school) and 249 demonstrations targeting teen drivers in multiple counties throughout their respective troops.

In 2003-2004, the third year of the program, the Occupant Protection Team trained a total of 45,920 people in the proper installation and use of child safety seats; conducted 802 public information or instructional events for the community; conducted or supervised a total of 2,442 child safety seat checks for the public; conducted 214 occupant protection or seat belt demonstrations at area schools, and 143 seat belt presentations targeting teen drivers across the state. So far in 2004, the Occupant Protection Team has distributed over 9,000 car seats to needy Florida children. To continue to answer public need, the Florida Highway Patrol currently maintains five Occupant Protection Specialists, 54 CPS Certified Technicians, and 4 CPS Instructors statewide, with hopes to add more certified technicians by 2005.