The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation created the Yellow Dot program, which is modeled after one in Alabama, in November 2012 to alert emergency responders that contact and medical information is in the glove box of a vehicle involved in an accident.
By Kathleen Ganster
As soon as she heard about PennDOT’s Yellow Dot program, Susan Cox of Richland knew she liked the idea.
She and her husband, Paul, immediately applied for and received a Yellow Dot decal, which they affixed to the lower left corner of the rear window of their vehicle.
But some people are concerned that local emergency medical personnel don’t know what the bright sticker means.
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation created the program, which is modeled after one in Alabama, in November 2012 to alert emergency responders that contact and medical information is in the glove box of a vehicle involved in an accident.
Participants fill out a form listing names, emergency contacts, medical history, medications, allergies and preferred hospital and doctors for treatment. A photo is taped to the front of the completed information sheet.
“The Department of Health, the Department of Aging and the State Police worked with us when we created this,” said Rich Kirkpatrick, acting press secretary for PennDOT. “We wanted to be able to help people in that ‘golden hour’ after an accident when it is so important to get people the emergency care they need that might mean life or death.”
The program was publicized through news releases when it began, and the greatest response has come from senior groups, Mr. Kirkpatrick said.
“They began reaching out to us and requesting more information to provide their members,” he said.
Since the program began, over 210,000 Yellow Dot packets have been disbursed.
But telephone calls to a few local police and emergency response centers in the area revealed that few knew about it. Of those contacted, only officials with Hampton EMS Inc., an entity separate from the township, were familiar with the program.
“We are contracted with the Pennsylvania Turnpike, so we became familiar with the program through an email that we received from them,” James Kline, CEO of Hampton EMS, said.
Mr. Kline said he wasn’t aware of anyone from his EMS coming upon an accident involving a vehicle displaying a yellow dot, but his employees know what to expect if they do.
“It is an excellent program. With senior drivers or those with medical conditions such as diabetes, it is especially helpful, but with summer travel and so many drivers on the road, everyone should have it,” he said.
And that is one reason PennDOT has upped its efforts to work with first responders and emergency medical personnel, said Juliann Sheldon, safety press officer for the PennDOT district office that serves Allegheny, Beaver and Lawrence counties.
“The program has been finding its way, and we found a great interest in groups who work with mature drivers. But we just recently formed a task force to see how we can get the word out to others, especially first responders,” she said.
On that task force are members of AARP, AAA, the Allegheny Health Department and hospital staff, Ms. Sheldon said. In September, she will address a law enforcement conference about the program and she is contacting other groups.
In addition to the Yellow Dot program, PennDOT has an Emergency Contact Information program, which enables drivers to register two emergency contacts through their driver’s license information.
Terri Rae Anthony, safety adviser for AAA East Central, said she provides the information to drivers through the organization’s programming, including AAA classes for mature drivers, the Car Fit program, classes at senior centers and information fairs and expos.
“It is a wonderful program, which is why we decided to partner with PennDOT to get the word out there. We always have a great response and people always take the kits,” she said.
But like Mr. Kline from the Hampton EMS, she hasn’t spotted too many Yellow Dots on vehicles on the road or in parking lots.
“I look all of the time and I have seen them only a few times. We want more out there,” she said.
Mrs. Cox is glad she and her husband have one on their car.
“I’m a nurse, so I know how important this information can be,” she said.
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