Press Release - 05-16-17

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Tuesday, May 16, 2017


Joe Morrissey (DMV) 
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Beau Duffy (NYSP)
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New York State Police Issue More than 15,000 Tickets during Week-Long “No Empty Chair” Enforcement Campaign
Schools, Law Enforcement Promote Campaign to Keep Students Safe for Prom, Graduation Season


New York State Police issued 15,355 tickets as part of the week-long “No Empty Chair” enforcement and awareness campaign, a statewide collaboration between state and local law enforcement, as well as schools, to encourage safe driving among teenagers to make sure there is No Empty Chair at proms and graduation ceremonies this season.


The Governor's Traffic Safety Committee (GTSC)’s statewide campaign ran from Monday, April 24 through Friday, April 28, and raised awareness of teenage traffic safety issues across New York. Every day, State Police and local law enforcement agencies stepped up enforcement around schools, targeting different driving behaviors: speeding in school zones, not wearing seat belts, talking and texting on cell phones, passing stopped school buses and impaired driving.


“This enforcement and awareness initiative sends an important message to our students at a critical time of the year.   We want them to have fun, but also be safe as they reach these important and memorable milestones,” said Terri Egan, Executive Deputy Commissioner of the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles and Acting GTSC Chair. “Driving responsibly helps ensure they get to enjoy wonderful, lifelong memories.”


“We want to keep teens safe, especially during this time of year, as they prepare for high school graduation and look forward to a new chapter of their lives,” said State Police Superintendent George P. Beach II.  “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 senseless tragedies.”


The campaign also includes an education and awareness component. Students across New York State received valuable lessons about responsible driving behavior. In Oneida County, Sheriff Robert Maciol worked with other agencies to create a simulated drunken driving crash complete with firefighters providing medical assistance, a staged fatality and an “arrest” of the driver. The New York Mills Fire Department and the Oneida County STOP-DWI Committee helped to arrange the event at New York Mills High School.


“They are very successful in getting a strong message across to the kids,” said Sheriff Maciol.


A two-day classic baseball tournament included a competition among eight high schools. Booths featured displays from the sheriff’s office, the New York State Police, the New York State Department of Transportation, and the Oneida County Health Department. Players had to arrive an hour early and go through all of the educational exhibits before they played. They signed a pledge not to drink and drive.


“It’s a great event we are very proud of,” said Sheriff Maciol. “As we approach prom season, and right after that graduation season, it’s the perfect time to get this message out.”


In Cayuga County, Lt. Michael Wellauer said materials and posters were distributed to local schools by deputies.


“We’ve seen an elevated number of young people killed in tragic crashes, not necessarily all their fault,” said Lt. Wellauer, the Road Patrol Division Commander. “We feel the No Empty Chair campaign targets issues young people would be concerned with. I think it’s a great program. I am hoping it certainly makes an impact and gives a message to our young people these types of behaviors are lethal.”


Lynbrook School Superintendent Melissa Burak recorded a message to alert residents to the enforcement campaign being undertaken by the Lynbrook Police Department. “I sent a robocall out to the entire community, to let them know what No Empty Chair meant,” she said. Before the prom, there also is a mandatory meeting where students planning to attend and a parent must listen to the staff discuss what the rules are for the event.


At Greece Odyssey Academy in Rochester, Principal Jeffrey Green said students listened to a talk by Marianne Angelillo of Skaneateles, whose son Matthew was killed in a 2004 drunk-driving crash. “The kids were completely engaged and hanging on her every word as she talked about good decisions,” he said. “When it was over, a lot of kids were coming up to the front. People were talking to her and giving her hugs. It only takes one wrong decision to completely change your life or even end your life.”


Angelillo has told her story at a number of events sponsored by GTSC over the years as a way to prevent youth from making the wrong decisions during prom and graduation season.  Listen to her story.


School administrators should contact Sergeant Todd Engwer to request the “No Empty Chair” posters free of charge by emailing him at [email protected].


B-ROLL VIDEO of a recent “No Empty Chair” event is available on YouTube.


SOUND BITES from the press conference are available on YouTube. Lower-third graphics for the sound bites, in order:


  • Chuck DeWeese / Governor's Traffic Safety Committee
  • Jani Majewski / Survivor Advocate
  • Beth Spirakis / Garden City School District PTA


Here is a breakdown of the State Police enforcement efforts during the “No Empty Chair” campaign broken down by Troop:


TroopRegionSpeedChild Restraint
Seat Belt
Distracted DrivingOperation Safe Stop
DWI Arrests
(# of persons)
Total Tickets
(includes other violations)
AWestern NY51914997671,504
BNorth Country224351806835
CSouthern Tier4215031451,050
DCentral NY52574921141,562
EFinger Lakes5071091041161514
FUpper Hudson Valley51555800161,507
GCapital Region6201261041171,612
KLower Hudson Valley42910188381,439
LLong Island3348888081,474
NYCNew York City1691300654
TNYS Thruway93346116092,204