Mike Alberg was sitting in a speech class at San Joaquin Delta College last fall when the nagging feeling to get involved with the local chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Drivers grew stronger.
Today, the Lodi resident is running the county office and bringing the traveling car crash trailer exhibit to the Grape Festival for the first time.
While Alberg, a local real estate agent, has never lost a child in a drunk driver accident, he is adamant about getting MADD's message out.
"MADD is not about getting (of-age) people to stop drinking. It's about getting them to make the right decision," he said. "You want to go to a bar for the night, call a cab. We see too many sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth repeat offenders."
In the past, the county branch of MADD has hosted an indoor booth at the Grape Festival, but reserved the trailer exhibit for the county fair in Stockton. This year, festival-goers will see first hand the effects of drunk driving, outside and in clear view.
One of several glass-sided trailers that travel around Northern California will be on display. Inside is a crumbled car that was involved in an actual drunk-driving accident from somewhere in the state.
Alberg and a group of volunteers will also distribute pamphlets against drunk driving and direct interested parties to a victims' board complete with photos and details from drunk driving accidents that have claimed the lives of loved ones.
"If we can get just one person to make the right choice, that decision could save that person or someone else's life," he said of MADD's message to not get behind the wheel of a vehicle after you've been drinking alcohol.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving at a glance• Founded 29 years ago.
• Launched its nationally recognized Red Ribbon Program in 1986.
• Two years later, the organization was at the forefront of setting the legal federal drinking age at 21.
• In 2001, MADD was named by Worth magazine as one of the best charities in America.
• In 2002, surveys estimated that Americans took over 159 million alcohol-impaired driving trips, compared with only 116 million five years earlier.
Alberg has been touched by a drunk-driving vehicle accident and has thought about enlarging the photos of his own crumpled car to display.
He and his wife were involved in an accident 20 years ago when a drunk driver lost control of his vehicle at 110 miles per hour on Highway 99 south of Merced. He went airborne and came to rest in front of the Alberg's vehicle; although Mike was injured, the drunk driver died at the scene. His blood alcohol level was .14, more than twice the legal limit.
Alberg had wanted to get involved in the nationally recognized organization for some time, after seeing the booths and even the crash trailer at the county fair, but said that it wasn't until he had to write a speech on drunk driving for his college class that he decided to join MADD.
"I think it is a very important organization," he said. "It's an important message, especially for teens and drunk driving."
His then-teenage children have been members of the "Every 15 Minutes" program at Lodi High School; one as the walking dead and one as the drunk driver.