New York State Aims to Protect Teen Drivers

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Following a push from the capital, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York State are relaunching their effort to reduce car accidents and deaths of teen drivers as the weather changes.

Gov. Cuomo’s Traffic Safety Committee has partnered with police departments across the state to launch the “No Empty Chair” campaign. The effort ran from April 18-22 and was timed to coincide with proms and graduation season to minimize accidents involving teen drivers, making sure there were no empty chairs at graduation.

The weeklong campaign was initially started in 2015 at Shaker Highschool in Latham, New York after a fatal car accident in 2012 involving students from both Shaker and Shenendehowa high schools. Two of the four students in the accident were killed after being hit by a drunk driver, who was also texting.

“Raising awareness about traffic safety can prevent senseless tragedies and save lives,”said Gov. Cuomo in his press announcement. “By spreading the word about the Empty Chair Campaign, we can stop crashes before they occur, and ensure a bright future for all of New York’s students.”

According to the National Traffic Safety and Highway Administration there were over 16,000 accidents involving teen drivers in New York State in 2013 alone.

Joe Morrissey, New York State Department of Motor Vehicle Spokesman, said that the initiative aimed to let students know how valuable they are to the future of New York, and how important it is that they are a part of that future.

Over 2,000 posters in support of the campaign have been distributed by the state, and local officials and administrators are being called to take part as well by taking the time to raise awareness about the statewide initiative.

Law enforcement was instructed to look for underaged drinking hotspots, and targeted all school zones, seatbelt violations, speeding in school zones, texting while driving, distracted driving, and driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.

“Every year you read that a tragedy has occurred around graduation, and it is our job to do our best to prevent that,” Morrissey said.