Press Release - 04-25-2022

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Monday, April 25, 2022


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

Enforcement Campaign to Run from April 25 Through April 29

The Governor's Traffic Safety Committee (GTSC) today kicked off the 2022 “No Empty Chair” campaign, which runs today through Friday, April 29. The campaign aims to encourage safe and responsible driving among teens and prevent crashes so that every young person is in their chair on graduation day. In partnership with Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD), school administrators, community leaders and law enforcement, the GTSC sponsors educational events and enforcement efforts to raise awareness about the driving behaviors that commonly contribute to serious and fatal crashes involving teens. The GTSC announced the campaign today at Lackawanna High School.

“Prom and graduation are exciting rites of passage for teens, and we want to make sure they all have a chance to experience those milestones,” said GTSC Chair and DMV Commissioner Mark J.F. Schroeder. “Our No Empty Chair campaign is focused on giving young drivers the knowledge to make smart choices behind the wheel and encouraging the role models in a young person’s life like their coaches, teachers, and parents to reinforce the importance of responsible driving. Together we can and we will save lives.”

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 ages 16 to19 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. 

New York’s partnership with Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) will be a major component in educating young drivers during this campaign. SADD chapters throughout the state will be hosting their own events in their communities. The SADD regional manager will be coordinating speaking engagements with survivor advocates, partnering with school administrators and local chapters to organize student-focused events, and utilizing social media to promote No Empty Chair. SADD will also provide information about underage drinking to schools that can be shared with parents and guardians as they plan to host graduation and prom afterparties.

During the campaign, No Empty Chair posters will also be displayed in schools and throughout communities across the state. The posters can be requested through the GTSC’s online request form. Additionally, state and local law enforcement agencies that have School Resource Officers or a presence at high schools are encouraged to conduct outreach during this campaign and throughout the prom and graduation season. 

The GTSC offers additional resources for educators, coaches, and school resource officers. Younger driver resources are also available on the DMV website.

In addition to educating students about safe driving, state and local law enforcement will increase patrols near local high schools statewide, 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 25 – Speeding in School Zones
  • Tuesday, April 26 – Seat Belt/Child Restraints
  • Wednesday, April 27 – Cell Phone and Texting
  • Thursday, April 28 – Operation Safe Stop
  • Friday, April 29 – Underage Drinking/Impaired Driving

SADD Regional Manager Lauren Meade said, “The last two years have been particularly difficult for our students in a variety of social emotional areas, which is certainly reflected very clearly in our crash data involving young drivers. SADD aims to educate our young folks across the State during targeted campaigns like No Empty Chair Week to increase the safety of our students behind the wheel, and as passengers.  We hope to see all New York students experience the rights of passage of prom and graduation safely and feel empowered to confidently make smart and sober decisions for their futures both on and off the road.”

New York State Police Superintendent Kevin P. Bruen said, “With the end of the school year approaching, prom and graduations will soon be in full swing, and we want to do everything we can to keep teens safe. Prom and graduation season is a time to celebrate, but too quickly these celebrations can turn tragic. We urge everyone to wear their seat belt, slow down, and put away that phone while behind the wheel. Taking these simple precautions is the best way to ensure a happy, safe end to an important chapter in our teenager’s lives.”

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.”

Livingston County Sheriff and President of the NYS Sheriffs’ Association Thomas Dougherty said, “High school and learning to drive often go hand-in-hand.  Teen drivers, like all drivers, need to wear seat belts, put their phones down, watch their speed, stop for stopped school buses, and drive sober.  Young drivers should be safe and smart while gaining experience behind the wheel.  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.