February 17, 2004

Retired Cop Offers Advice

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In his video called “How to Avoid a DUI: A Casual Drinker’s Guide,” former Tennessee police officer Tim Stone claims that casual drinkers who drive become unknowingly susceptible to driving under the influence (DUI) related charges. The video, available for purchase online at www.howtoavoidadui.com for $24.95, aims to teach viewers what “M.A.D.D. and law enforcement doesn’t want you to know.”

“You would be better off giving the $25 to a charity of your choice,” said Sgt. Chuck Howard of the Cornell University Police Dept. responding to some of the tips the video gives in ways to avoid drunk driving.

According to Howard, the video does not release any vital “tools of the trade” used by law enforcement. “It sounds to me like it’s somebody trying to make a buck,” Howard said. Commenting on the video’s instructions on how to ‘beat” the tests — such as the standing on one leg, horizontal eye tracking and walking in a straight line — that are given by officers to DUI suspects Howard said, “these are tests you can study for all you want, the effects of alcohol will still show.”

Howard suggests that the best way to avoid a DUI charge is to drive sober or take another form of transportation. Erin Sullivan ’07, who has a car on campus and sometimes drives to parties agreed, saying, “I don’t drive drunk for precaution.” Sullivan added that when she drives she is always the designated driver, and when she is not driving, she always makes sure she is in the car with a sober driver.

In addition, Howard pointed out that a designated driver is not the “least drunk” person in the group, but instead is someone who has had nothing to drink. In his experience he has encountered many cars “full of drunks” with the least drunk person driving.

Despite this common sense advice, Cornell police sees these cases about twice a month, said Howard. Just last September, Howard cited a case where a 20-year-old Cornell student was pulled over for speeding and going through a stop sign. The student was arrested on DWI charges and was convicted of a felony because it was a second offense. “That’s kind of sad, especially when it’s a Cornell student, it’s such a waste,” Howard said.

“I had a friend who died over winter break from drunk driving,” said student Ethan Hawkes ’07. “Its consumed a lot of thought,” he added. “There is no way you can justify losing your own life or taking another,” Hawkes said, commenting on whether or not it was okay to drive under the influence. “I’d be happy to see stricter penalties,” he said.

Indeed in New York State the penalties are quite strict. According to Howard, if you are caught, you will be arrested, fingerprinted, held in a jail until sober, possibly be asked to pay bail, be required to purchase an attorney and pay any fines for the crime. He gave an approximate value of $7,000 or $8,000 for a single DWI violation. In New York State, if someone incurs a second violation within ten years it automatically becomes a felony.

“We have been preached through the D.A.R.E. program but until it hits home the trade off [made by driving under the influence] isn’t made clear,” Hawkes said.

Archived article by Ted Van Loan