Great Hang Up: "Berry Boys" could inspire change in distracted driving laws

3:21 PM, Jan 7, 2013   |    comments
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The Berry family of Houston, TX

Tampa, Florida -- By all accounts, the Berrys from Houston, Texas were a picture-perfect family.  Joshua Berry ran a health-care company.  His wife Robin was an event planner.  And their children, Aaron, Peter and Willa, were the joys of their lives.

But the Berry children have become the faces of what can happen when drivers are distracted behind the wheel.  And their sad story could bring change to Florida.

In July, 2011, the Berrys were heading home to Texas after a vacation in Colorado when their car was hit head-on by a distracted driver.

"This guy turned around and looked for a DVD in his back seat, so he wasn't paying attention," said Adam Berry, the children's uncle.

Joshua and Robin Berry were killed in the crash.  Their three children were left orphaned and the two boys were paralyzed.

"It's sad on so many levels," said Dr. Lawrence Vogel who is Chief of Pediatrics at Shriners Hospital for Children in Chicago where the Berry boys were treated. "The boys were eight and nine when they were in the car crash. They are both paralyzed.  They have almost identical spinal cord injuries."

Dr. Lawrence Vogel and Adam Berry attended the first-ever Florida Distracted Driving Summit last November in Tampa--encouraging state leaders to pass an anti-texting and driving law in Florida.

"In the old days we would always say, 'Where were they in the car? Did they have a seat belt on? Did they have a child restraint?'" said Vogel. "Now we ask those same questions, but we ask, 'Was anybody on the phone? Were they texting? What about the other car?'"

The Berry boys have shown amazing progress in their recovery.  They are back home in Texas living with another uncle and aunt.  They play wheelchair basketball and keep active.

Like Florida, Texas has no state-wide ban on texting and driving.  Adam Berry thinks that needs to change.

"When you're behind the wheel, it's just as dangerous as a gun," he said. "Because a 5000 pound vehicle is like a huge bullet.  When you're not paying attention for a split second people can get killed."

The family has set up a fund to help the Berry children. Click here to learn how you can help.

 

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