Press Release - 05-17-2018

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Thursday, May 17, 2018

Lisa Koumjian

Rich Meddaugh 
Statewide campaign to feature Xfinity driver Ross Chastain to encourage seat belt use across New York State
Enforcement campaign to run from May 21 to June 3
New York Achieves Highest Seat Belt Compliance Since Data Recording Began 

B-Roll and Sound Bites Available Here

The Governor's Traffic Safety Committee (GTSC) today announced its statewide “Buckle Up New York, Click It or Ticket” enforcement campaign to raise awareness about the importance of wearing seat belts. The statewide campaign, which runs from May 21 to June 3, is part of a national enforcement effort to encourage motorists, passengers and children to take the important step of wearing their seat belts every time they are on the roadway. To help bring added exposure to this campaign, GTSC has again partnered with Xfinity Driver Ross Chastain to encourage seat belt use through the “Protect Your Melon” promotion.  

“It is a fact—seat belts save lives,” said Terri Egan, Executive Deputy Commissioner of the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles and Acting GTSC Chair. “Nationally, statistics show that hundreds of thousands of deaths have been avoided by seat belt use.  Whether you’re in the front seat or in the back, wearing a seat belt is one of the simplest ways to protect yourself.  I encourage all New Yorkers to be smart and buckle up every time they are in a vehicle on the road.” 

Throughout the campaign, New York State Police and local law enforcement agencies will use marked and unmarked vehicles, checkpoints, and roving details to patrol for unbelted drivers and front-seat passengers. New York law allows police to stop motorists for not wearing a seat belt even if they are not committing any other traffic infractions.

New York State Police Superintendent George P. Beach II said, “The threat of injury and death in car crashes increases significantly when motorists and passengers do not wear their seat belts. For the next two weeks, troopers, deputies and police officers statewide will be conducting checkpoints to ensure that motorists and passengers are obeying the seat belt laws.  Our message is very clear: it's click it or ticket-- seatbelts save lives.”

In addition, GTSC is continuing its partnership with JD Motorsports and Xfinity Series Driver Ross Chastain to encourage seat belt use through its “Protect Your Melon” campaign. As part of this effort, 1.4 million watermelons labeled with "Protect Your Melon" and "Buckle Up!" will be sold in grocery stores throughout the state. Chastain’s No. 4 Xfinity Series race car, which he will drive at the upcoming NASCAR XFINITY Series Zippo 200 at The Glen at Watkins Glen International, also includes the “Protect Your Melon” logo. 

“It means so much to me and to JD Motorsports to be able to carry the 'Protect Your Melon' message again for the Watkins Glen race. NASCAR drivers and teams spend a lot of our lives on the road, so we see all of the good and bad of traffic safety,” Chastain said. “Encouraging people to buckle up and drive safe has become a real passion of mine, and it's awesome that I can use my other passion, watermelon farming, to help further that cause. It's an honor that GTSC continues to choose our team to help spread the message.”

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), seat belt use is higher in states that have seat belt laws, and New York is proud to have led the way.  In 1984, New York became the first state in the nation to require drivers and front-seat passengers to buckle up, and through continued education about this important step, the State has seen a steady rise in compliance. Throughout the last eight years, New York’s compliance has remained at or above 90 percent.  In 2017, New York’s drivers set a new compliance record of 93.41 percent. 

Laura Casellini, a victim of a drunk driving crash in East Greenbush, Rensselaer County, in 2011, joined GTSC to kick-off the campaign and to stress the importance of seat belt use on New York’s roadways. “I was a typical teenager, just riding around in my friend’s car and in one moment, because of a car crash, my life changed forever. I was in the back seat, not wearing my seatbelt. I experienced devastating injuries and I almost lost my life,” she said. “Seven years later, I continue to live with a traumatic brain injury, which lasts forever. I work hard every day to compensate for my injury. I hope my story encourages others to always wear your seat belt. I ask that everyone please buckle up.”

NHTSA reports that seat belt use in passenger vehicles saved an estimated 14,668 lives in 2016 and could have saved another 2,456 people if they had been wearing seat belts. In total, seat belts have saved 344,448 lives since 1975, when NHTSA first began recording the data. Proper restraints reduce the risk of fatal injury to front-seat, passenger car occupants by 45 percent and light-truck occupants by 60 percent.

“Congratulations to motorists in New York who have achieved their highest seat belt use rate ever,” said Michael Geraci, Regional Administrator for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  “New York has long participated in the national “Click it or Ticket” campaign with impressive results - helping to boost their statewide seat belt use to 93.4 percent!” 

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Administrator Raymond P. Martinez said, “Last fall, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced the increase of safety belt usage by commercial truck and bus drivers, rising to a new record level of 86 percent in 2016, compared to just 65 percent usage in 2007. The US Department of Transportation’s 2016 Safety Belt Usage by Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers Survey observed nearly 40,000 commercial drivers operating medium- to heavy-duty trucks and buses at more than 1,000 roadside sites nationwide. The survey found that safety belt usage for commercial drivers and their occupants was highest by trucks and buses traveling on expressways at 89 percent, compared to 83 percent on surface streets.”

To learn more about the importance of seat belt use, visit the GTSC's Traffic Safety page and NHTSA’s Seat Belt Safety overview.

For more information about DMV, visit, or follow the DMV conversation online on Facebook and Twitter. To learn about additional traffic safety reminders, visit the GTSC website.