ALBANY Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) Commissioner and Chair of the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee (GTSC) David J. Swarts today announced that the seat belt compliance rate for New York has reached an all-time high. This year's statewide usage rate increased from 83 percent in 2007 to a record 89 percent for 2008. The statewide survey for this year, which was conducted by the University at Albany's Institute for Traffic Safety Management and Research (ITSMR), shows a marked increase in seat belt use on New York State roadways when compared to 83 percent usage rates in both 2007 and 2006. The New York State Seat Belt Observation Survey was conducted at 200 individual locations in 20 counties where drivers and front-seat passengers were monitored for seat belt compliance. The June 2008 survey used the same methodology as previous surveys and was funded by the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee. "This rate of compliance is very gratifying and shows that New Yorkers are taking the state's seat belt law seriously," said Governor David A. Paterson. "While we still do not have 100 percent compliance, having an 89 percent compliance rate shows we are moving in the right direction to make our roadways safer. I encourage all motorists, no matter for how long or short they travel, to always buckle up." Commissioner Swarts said, "Occupant restraint use is the single most effective strategy a person can employ to prevent deaths and injuries in motor vehicle crashes. In 2006, more than 40 percent of the motor vehicle occupants who died in crashes in New York State were unrestrained. The rate of seat belt use had not improved in the past four years, so we are very pleased that the trend for compliance is heading upward." "This is great news," said State Police Superintendent Harry J. Corbitt. "It not only indicates that more people than ever before are obeying the law, but by obeying the law and buckling up, it also means fewer people will be injured and killed on our roadways. There is a very strong correlation between safety belt use and traffic deaths, and today's news is very powerful because it means fewer families and communities will be torn apart by the grief caused by needless traffic deaths." Executive Director John Grebert of the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police said, "The goal to increase seat belt compliance rates is exactly what we have been working toward. The partnerships, public education and high visibility enforcement are all part of the recipe for success. While the latest statistics are exciting news, we know that we can still improve on those numbers. "I am extremely pleased and gratified to learn of the positive six percentage point change in seatbelt usage as a result of this year's recently completed Buckle Up New York - Click it or Ticket mobilization," said Peter R. Kehoe, Executive Director of the New York State Sheriffs' Association. "The increase in usage from 83 percent to 89 percent is truly significant and will impact crash severity rates statewide. This meaningful change is the result of the cooperative enforcement efforts of our deputies, troopers and municipal police officers, coordinated and supported by the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee." Thomas Louizou, Regional Administrator of the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, said, "I am thrilled with the results of this survey. New York has always been out front when it comes to seat belt safety, and the rate of usage in the state shows that the hard work and dedication of those who deal in traffic safety has paid off." The Department of Motor Vehicles and Governor's Traffic Safety Committee, along with the State Police and law enforcement agencies across the state, conduct seat belt use campaigns each year to remind New Yorkers that buckling up saves lives. The most recent "Buckle Up New York - Click It or Ticket" enforcement effort was conducted from May 19 through June 1 during the national 2008 "Click It or Ticket" mobilization. There were 49,301 tickets issued for seat belt violations during this period, and 3,097 for child restraint violations. In 1984, New York State became the first state to enact a mandatory seat belt law and full enforcement of the law began in January, 1985. New York is a primary enforcement state which means a law enforcement officer can stop a vehicle and issue a traffic ticket for failure to wear a seat belt without observing another violation. Failure to wear a seat belt carries a fine of up to $50. New York State's occupant restraint law requires the driver and each passenger in the front seat to wear a seat belt, with one person per belt. Every passenger under age 16, regardless of where they are seated, must wear an appropriate safety restraint. The driver and front-seat passengers age 16 or older can be fined up to $50 each for failure to buckle up. The driver must make sure that each passenger under age 16 obeys the law. The driver can be fined $25 to $100 and receive three license penalty points for each violation. Every occupant, regardless of age or seating position, of a motor vehicle being operated by the holder of a Class-DJ learner permit, or a Class -DJ or limited Class DJ driver license must use a safety restraint.