HAWTHORNE, N.Y. – Bedford teen Matthew Small knows seat belts can save lives.
Small was driving last fall when an oncoming vehicle swerved into his lane, sideswiped his car and sent it crashing into a tree. Small was wearing his seat belt at the time, which police said saved his life.
“It was bad, but it could have been a lot worse,” Small said.
Small, as well as several law enforcement officials, gathered at the Hudson Valley Transportation Management Center in Hawthorne on Thursday to kick off the state's “Buckle-Up New York” campaign, which encourages drivers to use seat belts. A two-week enforcement campaign will begin throughout the state on Monday, with police looking for unbuckled drivers to ticket.
New York introduced the first seat belt law in the nation, and officials reported Thursday that the statewide compliance level had remained above 90 percent for the past three years. Officials hope to continue raising that percentage. DMV Deputy Commissioner for Safety Terri Egan said motorists and passengers should buckle up “every trip, every day, all the time.”
“We all know that seat belts reduce the chance of being killed or seriously injured in a crash, yet about 30 percent of New Yorkers killed in crashes remain unrestrained,” Egan said.
Motorists who don't use seat belts are three times as likely to be killed or injured, officials said. They're also five times more likely to suffer a traumatic brain injury.
“Buckle-up: your life may depend on it,” Captain Michael Jankowiak, of the New York State Police Troop K, said.
“Wearing a seat belt is a small price to pay for your life,” Small said.