August 31, 2001

Police Initiate New Plan to Curb Drunk Driving on Campus

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Sargeant Charles Howard of the Cornell University Police Department (CUPD) is spearheading a renewed effort to reduce the numbers of drunk drivers on Ithaca and campus streets. Alcohol-related car crashes are the number one killer of young people aged 15 to 20, Howard explained, with more than 16,000 killed each year.

The Cornell police are stepping up their enforcement efforts, with increasing numbers of checkpoints and officers on routine traffic patrol, to help spot drunk drivers and keep them off the roads.

The Cornell police have all received updated training to conduct field sobriety checks and detect signs of intoxication among drivers they stop. Howard explained that Cornell student DWI (driving while under the influence of alcohol) arrests have increased significantly with 17 arrests this year until August 15 compared to the year 2000’s 24 arrests. “It’s a very good week when there are no DWI arrests,” Howard said.

Cornell’s effort is funded partly by the Tompkins County’s Stop DWI program, which allocates DWI fines for DWI prevention programs and coordinates anti-drunk driving education and public awareness.

John Beach, the coordinator for the county’s program, explained, “our message is one of deterence –s when people hear that there are more police on the streets, they might think twice about driving to collegetown — they might leave the car at home.”

Of the Stop DWI’s $211,000 annual budget, $40,000 goes for enhancing law enforcement capabilities against drunk drivers in Tompkins County. CUPD can get up to $3,000 for its role in DWI prevention.

“We provide funds to free up personnel so that police can provide an extra car or checkpoint for general traffic safety during prime drinking-driving hours, between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m. on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays,” Beach said.

Beach, who has been working on DWI prevention for 20 years, is optimistic about government and private efforts to reduce drunk driving. “There are 25,000 students in Tompkins County, and for the most part, they have really gotten the message that if you’re going to drink, you just don’t drive … the county also has other advantages – that buses run relatively late and residence halls are in close proximity to where the parties and bars are,” Beach said.

Susan H. Murphy ’74, vice president for student and academic services, approved of the initiative. “It’s important that we start every school year making sure that the community understands what the rules are and that we are vigilant about enforcing them.”

Murphy explained most of the University’s efforts encompass a broader approach towards alcohol use on campus. “It’s an issue we take very seriously,” Murphy said.

Archived article by Yoni Levine