It has been nine years since Tiffany Olson was killed in a motorcycle accident just 15 minutes away from her mother’s home. Olson and her boyfriend Dustin Wilder were struck by a motorist and died at the scene of the accident. Tiffany, who lived alone, had updated her license to reflect her own address. At that time, Florida did not have in place an efficient method of contacting next-of-kin after an accident if next-of-kin did not share the address of an accident victim.
Tiffany’s mother, Christine Olson, was notified of her daughter’s death six and a half hours after she was pronounced dead at the accident scene. It took that amount of time for police to locate Tiffany’s brother who ultimately contacted her mother with the tragic news. Florida State Trooper Kenneth Watson says, “We’ll take a look at who is the registered owner of that vehicle. However, if you’re the only person who is registered and we knock on that door, obviously no one is going to be there. We need more options.”
Over the next several years Christine Olson worked tirelessly on a way to present more options to law enforcement. The TIFF (To Inform Families First) Initiative, a collaborative effort between Olson, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, Florida law enforcement agencies, and State Representative Bill Galvano, created a voluntary emergency contact database where drivers add the name and contact information of who should be notified in the event of an accident.
The database, which went into effect in October 2006, and has seen participation by just over nine million drivers statewide (as of August, 2014), is secure and is accessible only by law enforcement. Olson intends to take the Initiative nationwide as according to the National Association of Emergency Medicine, nationally, the average time to notify next-of-kin ranges from six to 24 hours.
There are steps we can take to shorten the amount of time from incident to family notification:
- Update your address with the state driver’s license and identification card issuing authority
- In Florida, the law requires this update take place within 10 days of an address change
- Opt-in to the voluntary Emergency Contact Information (ECI) database
- In the state of Florida, access the ECI database at https://services.flhsmv.gov/eci/
- Enter your license number and date of birth in the appropriate fields
- Update the forms (allows for two emergency contacts) and save the information
- Include ‘In Case of Emergency’ (ICE) contacts on your cellular phone
- Free method – Update the lock screen on your phone with text showing ‘ICE’ and the name and telephone number for your contact
- Fee method – Search iTunes or the Google Play Store, depending upon your cellular phone’s operating system, for ‘In Case of Emergency’ apps
In 2012, the most recent data compiled, nationwide there were 30,800 fatal traffic accidents. Florida accounted for 2,255 fatal accidents with 2,430 individual deaths. That is 2,430 times that law enforcement had to locate and notify emergency contacts of and accident and eventual passing of a loved-one. Accidents take on all forms. Some are minor, ‘fender-bender’ type occurrences and others leave cars and their occupants mangled and almost unidentifiable. Seconds count as it relates to notification of next-of-kin.
Christine Olson continues to be haunted by the fact that her daughter lay dying on the roadway just 15 minutes away from her and she had no idea until more than six hours later as her daughter’s body lay in the morgue. Olson reflected, “As I was enjoying a movie at home, my daughter was laying in the street dead. And I didn’t even have a clue.” The car accident attorneys at Steinger, Greene, & Feiner encourage motorists to register an emergency contact with the ECI. The process is simple and the peace of mind it brings is immense.
No one likes to think about accidents, but it is best to take precautions and use preparedness measures to be ready in the event tragedy strikes. It is our hope that your commutes are safe and uneventful. For those instances where you, a friend, or loved one has been injured in a collision, our car accident lawyers are here to help you navigate the insurance and legal systems. Call us today for a free, confidential, no-obligation case evaluation.