Pennsylvania Governor Wolf signed into law House Bill 2025, known as Daniel’s Law, on November 4, 2016. Named for Daniel Gallatin, a volunteer fireman and military veteran, the law increases criminal penalties for texting while driving.
On May 7, 2013 Gallatin was killed when his motorcycle was struck from behind by an SUV. When the collision occurred, the SUV driver, Laura Gargiulo was distracted by text messages. Gallatin, who was pronounced dead at the scene, was pinned under the SUV and dragged for approximately 100 feet.
Gargiulo pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter, texting while driving and reckless driving. Even though the crash resulted in a death, Gargiulo was fined just $250 and sentenced to less than two years. She was paroled after serving two months of the sentence. During the sentencing, Lawrence County Common Pleas Court Judge J. Craig Cox was quoted as saying “changes need to be made in the severity of the laws governing cell phone use while driving.” He commented that a vehicle can travel the length of a football field in the time it takes to read a text message. These inadequate penalties focused new attention Pennsylvania’s laws regarding texting while driving.
Studies have shown that texting while driving is as dangerous as drunk driving, which carries stiffer penalties. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported in 2012 that distracted driving led to 3,328 deaths and approximately 421,000 people were injured in distracted driving automobile collisions.
The Pennsylvania vehicular homicide statute, 75 P. Cons. Stat. § 3732(b)(1.1) was amended to add Daniel’s law:
“In addition to any other penalty provided by law, a person convicted of [vehicular homicide] as the result of a violation of [Pennsylvania’s statue against texting while driving]… who is [also] convicted of [texting while driving]…may be sentenced to an additional term not to exceed five years confinement when the violation resulted in death.”
The bill also adds up to two years if there is a serious injury.
Daniel’s law applies to people who send, read, or write texts while their vehicle is in motion. Think twice before making the tragic mistake of texting while driving.
By Beth Cole