Campus police establish new program for student safety

The Florida A&M University Department of Public Safety has developed a new safety program to prepare for the upcoming holidays. Students are encouraged to file a Rattler Travel Plan with the FAMU Police Department before heading home for the holidays.

“Every holiday there is some kind of accident,” said Crime Prevention Officer Sherri Luke. “This plan provides extra security measures to keep the students safe and it’s so simple to fill out.”

The Rattler Travel Plan is a form for students to fill out notifying police of personal information, emergency contacts, medical history and destination information. Students should list exactly when they are leaving, how they are getting there and a time they should arrive.

“Students should fill this out so that if for some reason a student does not make it to their destination, law enforcement officials along the proposed route can take appropriate measures in tracking the students whereabouts,” Luke said. “Also, students need to tell a responsible person at their destination to contact the FAMU Department of Public Safety if the student does not arrive.”

Octavia Maxwell, 21, a fourth-year business administration student from Fort Lauderdale, has personal reasons for filling out the form. “I think this is a good idea because during the holidays you just never know.”

Maxwell was driving with her sister when their car hydroplaned off of interstate 95. “The program would have been important because no one could see us down where we were when we slid off the road,” Maxwell said. “My mom would want me to do this. She calls five times while I’m on the road.”

Reginald Alceus, 18, a freshman psychology student from Springhill, Fla., also said that he wants to complete the form not just for his own safety, but also to make his parents more comfortable while he is heading home.

“I would do this for my parents because they would definitely want to know if something happened to me,” Alceus said.

Nationwide, 42,636 people died in motor vehicle accidents in 2004, according to the 2004 Fatality Facts by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. 52 percent of those were not wearing seatbelts at the time of the accident.

The National Bureau of Transportation says passengers wearing seatbelts saved an estimated 14,903 lives in 2003.

“This is a good opportunity for the officer to caution the students about drinking and driving, driving while drowsy and seatbelt usage,” Luke said. “It is my hope that when receiving the forms, dialog between the officers and the student will be opened.”

Luke said she has already received some forms from students and hopes they will continue.

“I would fill it out in case something happened,” Alceus said. “I think other students will take advantage of it too and it will be very beneficial and useful.”

This program is not just for holidays, but also for anytime students go home and want to complete the form.

“It can be used at anytime and will be a year long program,” Luke said.

Some students had differing opinions about who should fill out the form.

“Incoming freshman should be required to, it should be mandatory for them,” said Antwan Simmons, 20, a classification business administration student from Miami. “Kids are lazy, nobody will do it voluntarily. They think they don’t have time.”

“I think many students who live on campus will do it,” said Traci Jones, 21, a fourth-year health sciences student from New Orleans. “At least that way the dorms would know who was staying and who was leaving.”

These travel forms are available right now at the FAMU DPS, parking services and all residential halls. Students can also receive a form from any FAMU DPS patrol officer.

Along with the new Rattler Travel Plan, the FAMU DPS also provides holiday travel safety tips for those traveling by plane or staying in hotels.

Contact Melissa McCartney at