A distracted driver caused their parents’ death, so they’re on a mission to educate and advocate
The Berry children teamed up with an Allstate agency owner to teach young people about the dangers of texting and driving; along the way they even got the attention of Texas lawmakers.
In 2011, a distracted driver changed the lives of the Berry family forever. While heading home from a family vacation in Colorado, that driver collided head-on with the Berrys’ minivan, killing Joshua and Robin Berry and injuring their three young children. Nine-year-old Peter and 8-year-old Aaron became paralyzed from the waist down, and 6-year-old Willa suffered minor injuries.
The children now live with their aunt and uncle, and together with their cousins, they are on a mission to educate students and adults on the dangers of distracted driving.
In 2016, I was introduced to the Berry family through The Allstate Foundation and its partnership with the youth empowerment nonprofit WE. My wife and I met the Berrys when we delivered a $10,000 grant from The Allstate Foundation to their fledgling One Life is Enough (OLIE) organization as part of our involvement in the 2016 WE Day TV special. We were so touched by the Berrys’ story that we threw ourselves into the nonprofit’s efforts. My wife and I are now co-founders of OLIE, and along with our 16-year-old son, we travel to schools across the state spreading the message about the dangers of distracted driving.
It was not until I met the Berrys that spreading awareness about distracted driving became a passion of ours. After we presented them with the Allstate Foundation grant, my wife and I knew we were meant to be a part of this movement. At that point we jumped in with all our energy.
I have many Allstate customers who have been affected by distracted-driving crashes, so I understand the pain these accidents can cause. And I’ve got children, I’ve got grandchildren—I don’t want that knock on my door one day telling me that someone’s been killed.
Our goal is to bring OLIE into every school in Texas–but I know I cannot do it alone. I hope to encourage other Allstate agency owners in the state to participate in OLIE because as small business owners, we are already so embedded in our communities. People trust us. By harnessing that trust, we hope to “knock out” distracted driving one student at a time.
One of our latest initiatives is to ask every student applying for a parking permit at their school to sign a commitment letter saying they won’t drive distracted. We also have a program that we bring to elementary and middle schools on how they can become active passengers, watching and listening to the sights and sounds of the road in order to help the driver be more attentive.
Additionally, along with the Berrys, we have advocated with leaders at the local and state level to help increase awareness of distracted driving. In 2016, Texas was one of only four states to not have a statewide ban on texting while driving. My wife and I, and the Berry family held a distracted driving event in Austin. The Berrys also went door-to-door to visit with lawmakers about supporting a bill to ban texting while driving. Months later, the bill was passed into a law and Texas now has a statewide ban on texting while driving.
The Berrys changed our lives, and we hope to pass that on to the many students we encounter through our work. When I think back to that day we first met the Berry family, we were the ones who were blessed more than anybody.