Local mom takes TIFF across state lines

What began with tragic loss has resulted in salvation and triumph for Christine Olson.

Olson is a long-time employee at the Rod & Reel Pier, where she has served many meals over the years. She often gives patrons a purple bracelet that both honors the memory of her daughter, Tiffiany, and serves as a reminder for people to register with the organization she founded, To Inform Families First.

“It’s amazing how one small idea has turned into a service that has helped countless Florida families be informed and notified in an emergency, but my work is not done yet,” Olson says.

TIFF is a driver’s license registration program that allows Florida drivers to enter family contacts for access by law enforcement.

On June 11 and June 12, the founder of TIFF’s Initiative, traveled to Atlanta as a guest of the state of Florida to speak at the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administration Region II conference about the importance of having an emergency contact program available in more U.S. states.

The idea originated in 2005 after Olson’s 22-year-old daughter Tiffiany was in a car crash in Palmetto. Tiffiany and her boyfriend were traveling north on U.S. Highway 19 when their motorcycle was struck by a car. Tiffiany was killed on impact. It was 7:01 p.m. when the crash occurred and it took more than six hours and many phone calls for Tiffiany’s family to learn what had occurred.

Olson knew then that something had to change about how families are notified when a loved one is in a crash, and she started looking for ways to make that happen.

Her quest led her to then-state Rep. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, now a state senator, and he led Olson to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, where they learned a secure database that allows law enforcement to access driver’s license information could be expanded to include family contact information.

The partnership grew to include the DMV and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and now any police officer can swipe a driver’s license on his or her car computer and view contact information — if it’s been registered by the driver.

In order for contact information to be available, drivers first register online at www.toinformfamiliesfirst.com or at a local DMV office. More than 7 million residents in Florida are registered.

Olson is now spreading the word to other states, advocating similar programs to prevent families from the painful hours in an emergency involving a loved one.

Government officials and DMV employees from Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia and Puerto Rico attended the conference and heard Olson’s story.

She hopes they follow in her footsteps.

She welcomes help reaching out and registering more people in Florida and other states and she’s available as a speaker for groups. Call Olson at 941-795-1869 or email her at christinesjourney@yahoo.com.

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