Governor's Traffic Safety Committee

NYS Governor's Traffic Safety Committee Press Release

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

New York State Governor's Traffic Safety Committee Hosts Competition For Teen Drivers

Motor vehicle crashes are the number one cause of death for those between the ages of 16 and 24. While this age group accounts for only ten percent of drivers, they represent twenty percent of the drivers involved in crashes. Statewide in 2010, there were 176 fatalities in crashes involving drivers of this age group. Of those fatalities only 43 percent were restrained.

With these staggering statistics in mind, the New York State Governor's Traffic Safety Committee (GTSC) with a grant from Ford Driving Skills for Life (DSFL), is challenging schools and organizations statewide to host "Battle of the Belts" competitions that stress the importance of always wearing a seat belt. Today, DMV officials attended such a competition at Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake High School in Saratoga County.

"The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and the GTSC are committed to keeping our youngest drivers safe," said DMV Commissioner and GTSC Chair Barbara Fiala. "We want them to be well-educated on all aspects of safe driving, and that especially includes wearing a seat belt every time they get in a car, whether they are driving or are just a passenger. Our hope is that through fun, hands-on events like the "Battle of the Belts" competitions, younger drivers will learn the importance of buckling up."

The "Battle of the Belts" is a fast-moving competition in which teams of four see who can buckle their seat belts the fastest. To begin, the team runs from a starting line to a 4-door car. Team members get in the car, buckle up and throw their hands in the air until a referee shouts, "rotate". Then they unbuckle, get out of the car and rotate clockwise around the car to the next seat and buckle up again. They rotate twice more until each team member has been buckled in all four seats. The team with the fastest time after four "buckle-ups" is the winner.

New York State's GTSC, of which DMV is a member agency, was one of five Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) members to earn a $20,000 grant funded by Ford DSFL, the teen safe driving program developed collaboratively by the Ford Motor Company Fund and the GHSA. The GTSC will provide support to any school or organization in New York who wishes to host a "Battle of the Belts", or similar, competition and there are currently seven events planned statewide. Event winners will be awarded a ten dollar iTunes gift card and those students who sign up on the Young Driver Toolkit web site will be eligible for the chance to win a Mac Book laptop.

"Ford Motor Company Fund is proud to once again partner with the State of New York in reducing teen-related traffic crashes," said Jim Graham, Community Relations Manager of the Ford Motor Company Fund. "Through partnerships like this, we are able to reach more teens with quality programming and impactful messages to help them become safer drivers."

"New York has always been a leader in teen driving safety," said GHSA Executive Director Barbara Harsha. "We are pleased to partner with the state along with the Ford Motor Company Fund to bring this very important program to students statewide."

"We had the fortunate opportunity to work with the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee in presenting the Ford Driving Skills for Life program earlier this year," said Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake High School Assistant Principal Timothy Brunson. "It was a very successful event for our students. We are hoping to establish the "Battle of the Belts" as an annual part of our Safe Spring Week leading up to our prom and graduation. We currently have 140 students ready to participate in this contest and we are pleased to help spread a positive message about traffic safety and awareness."

Ford Driving Skills for Life was established by the Ford Motor Company Fund, the Governor's Highway Safety Association and a panel of safety experts to teach newly licensed teens the necessary skills for safe driving beyond what they learn in standard driver education programs. Since its creation in 2003, Ford DSFL has partnered with approximately 40 GHSA members on a wide variety of teen driving programs and activities. GHSA provides leadership and advocacy for the States and Territories to improve traffic safety, influence national policy, enhance program management and promote best practices.

For more information, please visit or For more information on GTSC's Battle of the Belts competition and the Younger Driver Tool Kit, please visit


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