Press Release - 04-16-2021

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Friday, April 16, 2021    



Statewide Initiative Focuses on Safe Teen Driving During Prom and Graduation Season 

Enforcement Initiative to Run from April 19 Through April 23


The Governor's Traffic Safety Committee (GTSC) and the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) today announce the upcoming 2021 “No Empty Chair” campaign, which will run from Monday, April 19 through Friday, April 23. The teen driving safety education and enforcement campaign raises awareness of highway dangers in the hope there will be no empty chairs during prom and graduation season.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, motor vehicle crashes are the second leading cause of death for U.S. teens. Furthermore, motor vehicle crashes are higher among teens aged 16–19 than any other age group. Per mile driven, teen drivers in this age group are nearly three times as likely to be in a fatal crash as drivers aged 20 or older. 

“There is nothing worse than losing a child, and far too often young lives are cut short because of avoidable tragedies, particularly during prom and graduation season,” said GTSC Chair and DMV Commissioner Mark J.F. Schroeder. “That’s why we take a coordinated approach with enforcement and peer-to-peer education to remind young drivers about their responsibility as motorists and the very real consequences of driving recklessly, distracted or impaired. We want to make sure young drivers and their passengers make it to prom and graduation and learn positive driving behaviors that will continue throughout their lives.”

New York’s partnership with Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) will be a major component in educating young drivers during this campaign. The SADD state coordinator will be utilizing social media and partnering with school administrators to organize student-focused events. SADD will also provide information to schools on social host laws that can be shared with parents and guardians. Additionally, state and local law enforcement agencies that have School Resource Officers (SROs) or a presence at high schools are encouraged to conduct outreach during this campaign and throughout the prom and graduation season. 

As part of the campaign, No Empty Chair posters will also be displayed in schools. School administrators and community leaders are encouraged to display these free posters in prominent areas frequented by teenagers. The posters can be requested here.

In addition to educating students about safe driving, state and local law enforcement will increase patrols near local high schools throughout the state, and officers will be vigilant in enforcing violations of the Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) law. The GDL is intended to provide time for young drivers to gain critical experience in various traffic scenarios in a safe and controlled manner.

The enforcement component of the campaign will focus on specific infractions statewide during the week as follows:

  • Monday, April 19 – Speeding in School Zones
  • Tuesday, April 20 – Seatbelt/Child Restraints
  • Wednesday, April 21 – Cell Phone and Texting
  • Thursday, April 22 – Operation Safe Stop
  • Friday, April 23 – Underage Drinking/Impaired Driving


SADD State Coordinator Lauren Meade said, “We know that this has been an unconventional year for our students and our school districts across the State, but New York SADD wants to make sure there are no gaps in the prevention programming we would normally offer during prom and graduation season to increase the attention paid to traffic safety during these important life events for our teen drivers and passengers.  We know that our Speakers Bureau advocates create a long-lasting impact on the ways teen drivers behave behind the wheel and encourage our learning campuses across the State to take advantage of the free programming they can provide, virtually or socially distanced.”

The GTSC offers additional resources for educators, coaches, and school resource officers. Younger drivers can see Younger Driver resources at DMV.

New York State Police Acting Superintendent Kevin P. Bruen said, “This is an exciting time of year for teens as summer approaches and graduation looms. Teens will need to focus on the next step of their lives and still enjoy their high school days.  However, we want them to do it responsibly. No family member should ever get that knock on the door, saying their loved one won’t be coming home. I urge everyone to please wear your seat belt, slow down, and put your cell phones away while behind the wheel. Together, we can keep our roadways safe and avoid a tragedy.”

Chief of Ilion PD and President of the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police Timothy Parisi said, “We pledge our support of the No Empty Chair campaign.  It is our resolve that during this week-long event that none of our personnel have to notify family members of a needless and tragic motor vehicle crash that has taken a life of a child or loved one.  Law enforcement officers across the State will be vigilant in enforcing traffic violations to counteract poor decisions that all too often result in tragic consequences.”

Columbia County Sheriff and President of the New York State Sheriffs’ Association David Bartlett said, “When a teenager gets a driver license, it starts a new chapter in their life. It is an exciting time, but patience and good decisions are needed while a young driver gains experience behind the wheel. Teens, just like all drivers, need to wear their seat belts, watch their speed, put the electronic devices down, watch for stopped school buses, and not drive impaired. The Sheriffs of New York State don’t want to see any empty chairs on graduation day.”

Combined with education and enforcement campaigns, GTSC coordinates various traffic safety activities throughout the year and supports ongoing initiatives to improve pedestrian, motorcycle, and bicycle safety. The GTSC also sponsors critical training for law enforcement, provides resources for teen drivers and their parents, and promotes seatbelt use statewide.