Distracted drivers who kill or seriously injure others will face up to five years in prison under legislation signed into law by Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf.
Nicknamed “Daniel’s Law,” the measure provides for two-year sentences for causing “serious bodily injury” while texting. Causing a death can bring a five-year term.The current maximum penalty for violating texting & driving law in Pennsylvania is $50.
Daniel Gallatin, a volunteer fireman from Lawrence County, was killed in 2013 by a woman who was texting while driving an SUV. His motorcycle was hit from behind. The driver, Laura Gargiulo, pleaded guilty and served 60 days in jail on a manslaughter charge.
Gov. Wolf said at the Nov. 4 bill signing: “This behavior, which has been allowed to go under-punished for far too long, has been demonstrated to be just as dangerous as drunk driving. Distracted driving has fatal, irreversible, and grave consequences.”Representative Jaret Gibbons, who pushed through the legislation (HB 2025, earlier HB 853), said: “While we cannot bring Dan Gallatin back, at least his family will know that through this law, his loss will help to save lives.”
Gallatin left behind a wife, three children and three grandchildren. Members of his family, including his distracted-driving activist daughter Michelle Gallatin-Baughman, attended the Daniel’s Law bill signing in Scott Township.
Sponsoring legislator Gibbons also attended. The language of his original bill, HB 853, was added to the measure that received the governor’s endorsement. Gibbons recognized Gallatin’s “family and friends who have worked hard to make something positive come from his tragic and untimely death due to another person’s unsafe decision to text while driving.”
“Our desire was to find a way to prevent more senseless loss of life and that for anyone who makes the tragic mistake of texting while driving and harms or kills someone, the consequences would be in line with the grievous nature of that decision,” the representative said.
The judge in the Pennsylvania distracted driving case had said that “changes need to be made in the severity of the laws governing cell phone use while driving.”
Judges will have the option to add the new prison sentences on top of existing penalties. The law takes effect in 60 days.
Read more about Pennsylvania distracted driving laws.