Have you ever been involved in an auto accident? Even a minor “fender bender” can cause your anxiety level to rise and make it difficult to think clearly and answer questions from emergency responders. What happens if your injuries prevent you from being able to communicate at all with emergency personnel? Without basic information, valuable treatment time can be lost, resulting in longer recovery periods and less desirable outcomes. There is a simple solution to this frightening scenario.
In late 2012, Governor Corbett announced a program for Pennsylvania residents called the Yellow Dot Program. This program involves a cooperative effort between the PA Department of Transportation, the PA Department of Health and Aging, the State Police, the PA Turnpike Commission, and first responders/local law enforcement. Promotional materials for the program state “Pennsylvania’s Yellow Dot Program was created to assist citizens in the “golden hour” of emergency care following a traffic crash when they may not be able to communicate themselves.” The goal of the program is to enhance emergency care after an accident by having a victim’s basic medical information readily available to emergency responders.
Participation in this simple program is voluntary and free, and is available to residents of all ages, although it may be especially helpful for older drivers or individuals who have special medical needs or conditions. The packet of yellow dot program materials contains a booklet/ information sheet, a yellow folder/envelope, and a yellow dot decal. Participants complete the information sheet with their name, personal contact information, emergency contact information, medical history, medication list, allergies, and contact information for their physician. A passport style photo is then attached in the designated spot, and the information is placed in the yellow folder or envelope and placed in the dashboard glove compartment. The yellow dot decal is placed in the vehicle’s rear window in the lower left corner (driver’s side). The decal alerts emergency responders to the presence of written medical information inside the vehicle.
This program is not unique to Pennsylvania. According to a USA Today article from 2011, the first program of this type was started in Connecticut in 2002. At the time the article was written, eight other states had some type of similar program, most of which were established at a local level. In December of 2013, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia introduced a bill that would establish a national yellow dot program. It has been referred to the committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.
The varied implementation methods of the program by individual localities and states, plus its low-tech nature, makes finding data about participation rates and the impact of the program difficult. In November, 2013, a newspaper in Falmouth, Maine reported on the lifesaving potential of the program in a story about local resident Dick Leavitt. 83 year-old Dick was playing tennis when he suddenly collapsed on the court and hit his head. His friends alerted emergency personnel to the yellow decal on his car, and the information about a pre-existing heart condition and use of blood thinner medication was essential to prompt and appropriate treatment, which allowed him not only to recover, but to return to the tennis court within two weeks.
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation reports that over 200,000 Yellow Dot packets have been distributed since the program began. Is the possibility of saving your life worth a few minutes of your time? Order your Yellow Dot Program packet at www.yellowdot.pa.gov, or call the PennDot Sales Store at 717-787-6746.
Karen Kaslow, RN