The Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee (GTSC) and Xfinity Series driver Ross Chastain today held a meet-and-greet at Watkins Glen State Park to promote seat belt use. Chastain’s GTSC-sponsored race car sports the “Protect Your Melon” logo that is part of the campaign to promote the safe driving habit of buckling up.
“This was a great chance for fans to meet Ross Chastain and learn directly from a race car driver and avid seat belt user,” said Terri Egan, Executive Deputy Commissioner of the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles and Acting GTSC Chair. “Ross understands just how important it is for drivers and passengers to fasten their seat belts and be sure they are properly protected. A seat belt is just as important whether you’re driving to work, taking your children on vacation or trying to win a NASCAR race.”
Chastain and his No. 4 Xfinity Series race car were at the campground at Watkins Glen State Park on Wednesday, August 2 to meet fans and discuss with them the importance of buckling up ahead of this year’s I Love New York 355 at Watkins Glen International. The event kicked off a campaign that raises awareness about the importance of wearing seat belts and has included the distribution of more than 1 million watermelons with the GTSC’s “Protect Your Melon” sticker. Chastain’s GTSC-sponsored car includes the state’s “Protect Your Melon” logo and theme. His appearance came in advance of the annual I Love New York 355 at The Glen, the only NASCAR race in the state.
“I'm really excited to get back on the track at one of the most prestigious road courses in the nation at Watkins Glen,” Chastain said. “Road racing is something I've had to learn on the fly in NASCAR, but I've enjoyed the challenge. The No. 4 car will stand out with the watermelon colors coming back. Our hybrid program of watermelons in the store and the No. 4 Racecar is the perfect mix to remind and encourage all New Yorkers to buckle their seat belts.”
Chastain’s car will carry the special branding as he competes in practice Fridayand in qualifying and the race Saturday. Chastain is part of a three-driver team fielded by JD Motorsports of Gaffney, S.C.
Stephanie Specchio of Watkins Glen also knows the value of a seat belt. In April 2016, Specchio was a passenger in a vehicle that was rear-ended by a tractor-trailer in Beaver Dams, Schuyler County. She broke her pelvis and her hip.
"The power of a seat belt took on new meaning for me after a crash about a year ago,” she said. “I used to wear it because it was the law. Now I wear it because it can be the difference between having the opportunity to return to normalcy after a crash or even to continue living after a crash. I'm not back to normal yet, but I'm on the way, and have the chance simply because of the seat belt."
In 1984, New York became the first state in the nation to pass a seat-belt law, and its efforts to get drivers and passengers to buckle up has resulted in a steady rise in compliance over the last eight years.
Last week, the GTSC announced New York’s drivers set a new compliance record of 93.41 percent in 2017. New York’s compliance has consistently remained at or above 90 percent over the past eight years.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that seat belt use in passenger vehicles saved an estimated 13,941 lives in 2015. Still, nearly 27.5 million passengers still don’t buckle up. If all occupants did, NHTSA estimates it would save another 2,814 people.
Of the 35,092 people killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2015, 48 percent were not wearing seat belts.
Proper restraints reduce the risk of fatal injury to front-seat passenger car occupants by 45 percent and light-truck occupants by 60 percent. In total, seat belts have saved 344,448 lives since 1975, when NHTSA first began recording the data. If everyone had been wearing a seat belt since then, an additional 381,787 lives could have been saved.