New York State Police and park police Saturday launched a crackdown on lax seat belt and child restraint use in state parks.
Police will set up periodic checkpoints — similar to those combating driving while intoxicated — in parks on Long Island and elsewhere until Aug. 13, said Maj. Anthony Astacio, commanding officer for park police on Long Island and in New York City.
“We’re not looking to ruin anybody’s day,” Astacio said. “That’s not our purpose. We want people to have a good time. At the same time, we’re trying to avoid tragedies.”
The annual crackdown began about 10 years ago. During the 2017 crackdown, police issued 2,850 tickets for child-restraint and seat belt violations.
In past years, police repeatedly observed “vehicles overstuffed with people,” Astacio said.
“A lot of times we’d see kids sitting on laps,” he said. “A vehicle that should have three people in the back would have six. These are dangerous things.”
A trained child restraint seat technician will be at checkpoints to examine how the seats are installed, and “if it isn’t done right, we’ll do it for you” and show parents the correct way to do so, he said.
Police will reward those who follow child restraint and seat belt laws with a small gift, which in the past has included a water bottle or key chain, Astacio said.
In 2016, 35 percent of children under 13 killed in car accidents were not restrained with a seat belt, car seat or booster seat, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics cited by State Police.
“By simply buckling up, motor vehicle occupants dramatically reduce their risk of severe injury or death if involved in a crash,” State Police Superintendent George P. Beach II said in a statement. “We will be working diligently to promote proper seat belt use and compliance, and reduce the senseless tragedies caused by people who ignore the seat belt laws.”
State law requires each front-seat vehicle occupant to wear a seat belt and, in the case of passengers younger than 16, a seat belt or child safety restraint system in any seat. Drivers must ensure that all passengers under 16 are properly restrained, and can be fined up to $100 and receive up to three driver’s license penalty points for each violation.