Bikers rally for tougher texting penalties!
Bikers rally in Harrisburg for tougher texting penalties
The New Castle News
Posted: Tuesday, June 2, 2015 4:00 am
By John Finnerty
CNHI Harrisburg Bureau
HARRISBURG — Motorcyclists are throwing their weight behind an effort to stiffen penalties for drivers who cause fatal crashes while texting.
Rep. Jaret Gibbons, D-Lawrence County, proposes sentences for distracted driving that mirror those for causing injuries while driving drunk.
The bill is dubbed Daniel’s Law in honor of Daniel Gallatin, 68, of New Castle, who was killed in May 2013 when his motorcycle was rear-ended by an SUV while he was driving in front of his daughter’s home.
Laura Gargiulo, 44, of Volant pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter, texting while driving and careless driving. She was sentenced to 60 days in jail and another 60 days of incarceration with work release, followed by house arrest and probation.
She was also ordered to visit schools to talk about the dangers of distracted driving and fined $50 – the penalty in Pennsylvania for texting behind the wheel.
Her sentence incensed Gallatin’s friends and family.
“Regardless of the circumstances, 60 days in jail for a person who admitted committing a crime that caused a death is not sufficient,” said his daughter, Michelle Gallatin-Baughman, after a rally at the Capitol sponsored by the motorcycle group ABATE of Pennsylvania on Monday afternoon.
Gallatin was one of 59 people killed in distracted driving crashes in Pennsylvania in 2013, according to the state Department of Transportation.
“It’s an unfortunate thing, and we need to do everything we can to make some good come out of it,” said Jim Conner, a longtime friend of Gallatin’s.
The Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts reported that 1,410 people were given traffic tickets for texting behind the wheel last year. Proponents of Daniel’s Law argue that the penalties aren’t severe enough when the texting leads to tragedy.
“This kind of irresponsible and reckless behavior has very real, and all too frequently, life changing consequences,” Gibbons said. “Nobody deserves to have their life forever altered because of a text message or email.”
The texting ban is difficult to enforce, said District Judge Jeffrey Mensch, in Mifflinburg. He’s only seen a handful of texting tickets cross his desk.
The court system's records show only a dozen texting-while-driving citations issued in Union County in the last three years. Mensch’s court only covers half the county.
“It’s rare,” he said, adding that it’s easier for police to give tickets for texting while driving in more populated areas.
There traffic conditions provide more opportunity for officers to catch people playing with their phones instead of watching the road.
Court data reflect that: Counties surrounding Philadelphia are home to 1 in 5 Pennsylvanians, but were the location of better than 1 in 4 texting-while-driving tickets last year.
Gibbons’ texting bill, introduced last month, isn't the only effort at targeting distracted driving.
Sen. John Wozniak, D-Cambria County, has authored a bill to extend the texting ban to include talking on a cell phone while driving.
“(Drivers) have to realize they are not sitting in their living room,” he told bikers gathered at the Capitol.
Edit: There were these two comments following the story...
"I've seen plenty of bikers texting too. That said I'd love more harsh penalties for all texting and driving cases. Id rather not wait for them to cost a life."
"Even the police text while driving, I've seen them do it."
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