Drivers throughout the Cornell campus and Ithaca area should be extra diligent in buckling up over the next few weeks.
As part of a zero tolerance campaign during the holiday travel period, Cornell Police will run extra patrols and set up checkpoints on campus to ticket drivers and passengers who fail to wear their seatbelts, according Linda Grace-Kobas, director of the Cornell News Service.
New York’s occupant restraint law requires that drivers and front seat passengers wear seatbelts. Fines for violating this law can reach $85, including surcharges, for drivers and passengers over 16. If the passenger is under 16, the driver can face fines of up to $100 plus surcharges.
The law applies equally to out of state visitors, and unlike other states, New York is a primary enforcement state. Consequently, failure to wear a seatbelt is alone grounds for an officer to issue a citation. No other infraction is necessary, as would be the case in secondary states such as Pennsylvania and Massachusetts.
Sgt. Charles Howard, coordinator of traffic enforcement activities for the Cornell Police, said Cornell’s Click-It or Ticket campaign has been ongoing since 1999, with the goal of increasing seatbelt use.
Over the past few semesters, Cornell police have carried out these campaigns with particular rigor around heavy travel periods to remind students and community members to buckle-up.
The stepped-up enforcement — which began Nov. 18 and will stretch to Dec. 1 — specifically aims to break the habit of not buckling up amongst 16-25 year-olds, according to Howard.
“We want students to develop good habits,” Howard said. He expressed worry that if students become accustomed to not wearing seatbelts on campus, they might also neglect to buckle-up on the higher-speed interstates during their travels over break.
Howard said he finds this possibility particularly distressing, noting that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that of all passenger car occupants killed in accidents, 41% were not properly restrained.
As part of the campaign, Cornell Police have sent mailings to over 1000 students to educate on-campus drivers about New York’s laws and about the dangers of riding unrestrained.
Peter Sepp ’04, who said he always wears a seatbelt and encourages his passengers to do so, was supportive, but somewhat skeptical in his assessment of the program.
“It’s a good idea as long as the punishment is lenient,” he said. “The police should be proving a point, that they’re trying to protect students, not hurt them.”
Cornell’s efforts are part of the statewide Buckle Up New York campaign, aimed to increase safety restraint use throughout the state. According to the New York State Police website, only an estimated 84% of New York motorists buck their seatbelts consistently, while state laws mandating safety belt use became effective in 1984.
If successful, officials expect the statewide campaign to save 148 lives and $400 million dollars in economic costs each year.
Archived article by Michael Dickstein