State Police and Park Police to crack down on seat belt use in state parks

ALBANY, NY —  The New York State Police, the New York State Park Police and the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee are partnering to ensure that visitors to state parks are buckling up for safety.

Buckle Up New York Summer Parks Initiative, or “BUNY in the Parks,” is an enforcement and educational campaign to ensure that motorists and passengers properly buckle-up their seatbelts while travelling inside state parks, and to teach the importance of properly securing our youngest visitors in approved child safety seats. This year’s campaign will be held from Saturday, July 11, 2020 to Monday, August 10, 2020.

Since New York State became the first state in the nation to enact a primary seatbelt law, effective January 1, 1985, countless lives have been saved.  The seatbelt compliance rate has steadily increased and reached a record 94% in New York State in 2019. However, motor vehicle crashes continue to be a leading cause of death for children. Data from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) reflects that, of the 794 children that were killed in fatal crashes in 2017, 37% were unrestrained.  The NHTSA also found that among children under 5 years old, an estimated 325 lives were saved in 2017 by restraint use.

New York State Police Superintendent Keith M. Corlett said, “As the summer travel season continues, the State Police and our partners strongly encourage the proper use of seat belts and child safety seats in motor vehicles. This is about protecting the smallest New Yorkers, our children. By simply buckling-up, we can reduce severe injuries and deaths in motor vehicle crashes. We will continue to work diligently to promote proper seatbelt use and compliance.”

State Park Police Chief Mark VanWie said “As we continue to open up recreational opportunities across the state, the safety of our visitors is our greatest priority.  Through our partnership with the New York State Police and local law enforcement agencies statewide, we will continue to educate and strictly enforce proper seat-belt usage, which will help to ensure a safe, enjoyable experience for all motorists entering or leaving our New York State Parks.”

Mark J.F. Schroeder, DMV Commissioner and Chair of the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee, said  “New York has so many beautiful parks and they are great places to enjoy the outdoors during this difficult time, but I urge New Yorkers to enjoy them responsibly. Just because you are driving in a park does not mean you don’t need to wear a seat belt.  Make sure everyone stays safe in our parks. Buckle up every trip, every time.”

This initiative coincides with one of the peak times that visitors travel to state parks throughout New York State, and the goal is for motorists and their families to arrive and depart safely.   Increasing seatbelt use is one of the most effective ways to reduce crash related injuries and fatalities. Ensuring motorists adhere to proper child restraint laws will, no doubt, protect the lives of many that cannot speak for themselves.

During the 2019 BUNY in the Parks campaign, the New York State Police and State Park Police issued 7,596 total tickets, including 3,369 tickets for child restraint violations, and 3,927 tickets for adult seatbelt violations.

Highlights of New York State’s occupant restraint law:

  • In the front seat, the driver and each passenger must wear a seat belt, one person per belt. The driver and front-seat passengers aged 16 or older can be fined up to $50 each for failure to buckle up.

  • Every occupant, regardless of age or seating position, must use a safety restraint when riding with driver who has a junior license or learner permit.

  • Each passenger under age 16 must wear a seat belt or use an appropriate child safety restraint system. The restraint system must comply with the child height and weight recommendations determined by the manufacturer. Depending on the size of the child, the restraint system may be a safety seat or a booster seat used in combination with a lap and shoulder belt.

  • Children must be restrained in a rear-facing car seat up until the age of two.

  • The driver must make sure that each passenger under age 16 obeys the law. The driver can be fined $25 to $100 and receive up to three driver license penalty points for each violation.