New York State law enforcement officials gathered at Jones Beach Wednesday to announce a new initiative that will increase the enforcement of seat belts in and around state parks.
The "Buckle Up New York Safe Parks" initiative, which will go into effect Saturday, is a joint venture between the New York State Police, New York State Park Police and the New York State Governor's Traffic Safety Committee.
The initiative came about when state park police and state police noticed a trend in park goers who were not using seat belts on children coming or going to state parks.
"Regretfully, we will ruin your day with a ticket if it means saving your life and the life of a passenger entrusted to you," said Capt. Joseph A. Tripodo, acting Troop L Commander, at the news conference Wednesday.
State officials recalled a record 93 vehicles that were cited for seat belt infractions on a single day last summer at Lake Welch, in Rockland County.
Tripodo said he typically sees two common scenarios: an overpacked minivan or parents who don't put seat belts on tired, sunburned and fussy kids on the way back home.
An estimated 60 million people visit New York State parks every year, with a majority of them coming during the summer.
New York State Parks Police Chief Richard O'Donnell, who called the plan a perfect partnership, said state parks police will check cars that enter and exit state parks, while state police patrol highways nearby.
O'Donnell emphasized that initiative is not a determent to visit parks but to do so safely.
"We want you to come, but take that extra step," said O'Donnell.
On hand at the news conference was an amusement parklike contraption called the "Seat Belt Convincer," a 5 to 7 mph car crash simulator. Many who took the plunge were shocked at how hard the hit was, and thankful for the seat belt.
New York law states that all front-seat passengers and all backseat passengers under the age of 16 must wear seat belts. Children under 7 must have proper restraints, such as a car seat or booster seat, if needed.
Anthony Dimarti was at Jones Beach on Wednesday with his wife and three kids, and the family toted along a host of accessories that filled their car, including beach chairs, a cooler and boogie boards. He said the safety of his young daughters always comes first.
"They have to buckle up 100 percent of the time or we don't leave," said Dimarti. "Teach them as kids and it saves lives."