December 1, 2005

CUPD Officer Offers Driving Tips

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Officer George Sutfin of the Cornell University Police Department gave a talk about safe winter driving last night at the law school. With 23 years of experience giving this lecture, he is a winter-driving expert. Most of those present had not yet driven in snowy weather and left better prepared to deal with the upcoming hazardous conditions.

His first piece of advice was rather basic, but extremely useful: “If you don’t have to do it, don’t do it.” He added, “If I could, I would ride the bus every day.” But those who can not or will not follow this advice should not worry too much, as there are still other precautions that can be taken, some even before the key is in the ignition.

Even with high gas prices, it is necessary to always keep the tank at least one quarter full, he said. All gas has water in it, and if the temperature drops, it can freeze and break the gas line. To prevent other freezing related problems, windshield wiper fluid should never be diluted and anti-freeze is necessary for a working radiator.

Batteries should also be checked and tires inspected to make sure the treads are suitable for the winter months.

With bad road conditions, people should give themselves extra time to reach their destination, and slow down while driving. According to Suftin, “Speed limits are for ideal conditions,” and it is necessary to slow down at least 10 miles an hour below the speed limit during inclement weather.

Also, headlights should be used as much as possible. Even when they may not improve visibility for the driver, they allow others to see the car easier and give them more time to react.

However, there are some things that cannot be helped. One student present asked about her rear-wheel drive Mustang. Suftin said the only thing to do was to put the car in a garage for the colder months ahead. Those with four-wheel drive were not spared either. According to Suftin, the main difference between four-wheel drive and front-wheel drive is that “People who have four-wheel drive get stuck further off of the road.” Even the winter driving guru himself admits to having been in some crashes, both in the patrol car and in his own.

“Accidents do happen,” said Sutfin, “and people just need to slow down.”

That talk was followed by helpful hints for international students in pursuit of a New York State drivers license. The talk was delivered by Mary Schlarb, the assistant director for programming services at the International Students and Scholars Office. New York State honors all valid foreign licenses in addition to those from out of state, but many international students would prefer to have a New York license. Insurance rates are often lower, and it is simply more convenient.

According to Aslı Mete, a resident at the Vet school, whenever she shows her Turkish license to police, “They think, ‘What is this?'” and it takes a while to explain things.

However, the process to get a New York State license is not easy. To be eligible for a license, a student’s visa must be valid for at least a year, leaving out those who are here for an LLM program that comes with a nine-month visa, and even those who are eligible are discouraged from applying.

According to the DMV website, they “recommend against this because it is not necessary.”

Schlarb struck fear into the hearts of the international students present with a dire warning about the Department of Motor Vehicles: “It can be the worst experience that you have with a government agency.” But she quickly reassured her audience noting that “They treat [U.S.] citizens badly too.”

Though slightly intimidated by the description, Philip Stathis ’09 is still planning on getting a New York license instead one from his home country of Greece. “How hard can it be?” Stathis asked.

Archived article by Laura Rice
Sun Staff Writer