I don’t know how many of my readers were aware of this at the time it happened, but five months ago, last February 2018, two Needham High School students were killed when two separate vehicle drivers hit both students as they were walking across Webster Street, in the town just next door to me here in Westwood. It was a stunning tragedy that took the lives of Talia Newfield, age 16, and Adrienne Garrido, age 17. Both were Juniors at Needham High School.
February 10, 2018 was a Saturday – not even a school day. The weather was uncomplicated, in fact rather warm for that day of the year (approximately 50 degrees). Yet, in a freak accident that still begs for comprehension, both friends were struck as pedestrians by two separate cars. Just a day ago, Norfolk County District Attorney Michael W. Morrissey’s office released news that the drivers of those two cars, Robert Berry, 65, of Needham, and Dania Antoine-Guiteau, 52, of Wellesley, have been indicted by a Norfolk County grand jury on criminal felony homicide charges: Mr. Berry was charged with motor vehicle homicide and two counts of aggravated assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. Ms. Antoine-Guiteau was indicted on charges of manslaughter and negligent motor vehicle homicide. Now, beyond the grieving families of these two young students, two more families will suffer even more grief, knowing that their family members have been criminally indicted on Massachusetts motor vehicle homicide charges.
I do not know what caused this horrific accident. I don’t know if it involved distracted driving; I don’t know if it involved visibility issues, mechanical issues or other issues. I’ve seen horrific motor vehicle accidents caused by something as innocuous as a sneeze. Then again, I’ve seen them caused by shocking acts of negligence or selfishness – and yes, it is selfish to use a smartphone when driving (again, I’m not implying that distracted driving was present in this tragedy).
Far too many people think that most car accidents are minor events – “fender-benders”; exaggerated for “pay days.” Others say that many motor vehicle accidents result for the most part in minor whiplash injuries. This is categorically not true. Massachusetts car accidents happen every day across this state, and as a Massachusetts car accident lawyer who has handled these types of cases for more than 25 years, I can assure you – the injuries that result in these accidents can change a victim’s life, forever. Auto accident injury victims can suffer debilitating pain and disabilities for the rest of their lives.
Care for a visual example on a local level? Former Governor Mike Dukakis. These days, the former governor is visibly hunched over, almost similar to the way the late Pope John Paul II was, who suffered from severe arthritis in his neck. Why does Gov. Dukakis now look this way? He suffered a severe whiplash injury in a car accident, a few years ago. I feel bad for him, that he has suffered this injury. He is a good man and an exceptionally honorable public servant (and that’s putting it mildly). I raise his name here simply to illustrate that this is the type of lifelong injury that can result from a “simple whiplash injury.”
My message to my readers, once again: Whatever you do out there, when you are behind the wheel of a motor vehicle, pay attention to your driving, drive defensively, and turn that smartphone off.