Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Drunks Ride for Free

By Anneli Rufus
Wed, Mar 19, 2008 at 9:36 AM

Because he represents people who have been injured by drunk drivers, Alameda lawyer William Berg wants to get as many as possible of said drivers off the streets. Arithmetically speaking, this would reduce his pool of potential clients, but "I don't need more business," Berg avows. "If I can do anything to get drunk drivers off the road, it's a good thing."

So on those holidays celebrated chiefly with alcohol — such as New Year's Eve and, most recently, St. Patrick's Day — Berg pays the taxi fares of folks who have been imbibing in Berkeley, Oakland, and Alameda and need a lift home. To partake of his Safe and Sober Free Cab Ride Home program, one need only call Yellow Cab of Alameda or Veterans Cab and tell them to put the excursion on Berg Injury Lawyers' tab.

"We do have rules," Berg says. For instance, "it has to be from the party or bar to their residence. If they want to go from party to party or bar to bar, okay — let them pay for it themselves. If they want to go home, we'll pay for it.

"I have nothing against drinking. It's a free country. But it's against the law to drive if you're under the influence. It endangers everybody. Go out and have a good time," says Berg, an Alameda native, "but don't get behind the wheel afterwards."

As he's learned from nearly thirty years in injury law, "so many times, drunk drivers are people who are problematic in other ways — so they don't have a lot of auto insurance and they don't have any money, so their victims don't get compensated. Yes, auto insurance is required in California, but all that is legally required is $15,000 — and that doesn't go very far. And people who break laws — people such as drunk drivers — tend to break other laws, like not having insurance."

He paid for 87 cab rides on New Year's Eve and is still waiting to get the figures for St. Patrick's Day. He's trying to expand the program to San Francisco and other nearby cities.

"I've committed more money to the budget," Berg says.

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