Free Gas Frenzy Leads to Crashes, Arrests in Milwaukee

Two car crashes occurred and four people were arrested in excitement over a gasoline giveaway Wednesday to reward the city for its safe-driving record.

For the most part, hundreds of drivers waited patiently for hours for about $30 worth of free gasoline each that Allstate Insurance provided at one station.

However, some motorists started lining up before midnight and the queue stretched far from the station into a residential area, trapping some residents in their driveways, said police spokeswoman Anne E. Schwartz.

That led to fights and arrests for disorderly conduct. In one case, three officers were sent to a hospital as a precaution because they were spattered with blood from someone's bloodied nose, Schwartz said.

The two crashes apparently occurred when queued-up motorists tried to let friends into line, Schwartz said.

"Any time you offer free gas when it is $3 a gallon, it is not surprising people would get excited," she said.

Allstate gave away a tanker truck load of gasoline as a reward to Milwaukee for ranking No. 1 among mid-sized cities on its safe drivers list. The insurance company gave free gas to more than 700 motorists, said company official Bill Mellander.

The giveaway lasted a couple of hours, Schwartz said.

Clarence Jefferson said he thought he'd be first in line when he got there at 4 a.m. — but found hundreds of others already ahead of him. Pumps were turned on at about 6 a.m.

"It doesn't matter," he said. "It helps. Every bit is worth it."