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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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I was talking to a buddy about texting and driving not that long ago and it hit me, 10 years ago I use to text and drive and had no issues, no close calls, nothing. Now its almost impossible..so what is the difference?

Then it hit me, back in the day we used flip phones with only 12 keys and with T-9 or Word, you could type out words with only a few strokes of a thumb and never had to look at your phone to send a message. Now with the QWERTY keyboards, you HAVE to stare at it to type and typically use both hands; and that has made all the difference it seems.

Personally, with hands free devices and speech to text, there is no reason to be distracted even sending a text. I use the LG Tone Ultra headset and can send a text, call someone and never even need to touch my phone, much less look at it.

I say destroy the phones on the side of the road, 2nd offence, destroy the phone and 30 days in jail, 3rd 1000 fine and 90 days in jail...
 

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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
IMO there are two problems here.

1. Hardly any LEOs or their bosses are even interested in enforcing the law until there's an accident.
2. From the article: "$50 – the penalty in Pennsylvania for texting behind the wheel."

I was rear-ended last year by a lady on the phone, who had a little dog jumping around in the mini-van and who admitted to the officer that she had taken 3 percodan that morning.

The officer let her drive away.

In the remote possibility that I get pulled over for texting, it's only a $50 dollar fine, so who gives a damn, right?
 

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involuntary manslaughter penalties at both the state and federal level are usually at least a year, and usually longer if a vehicle was used.

i think it would be easier to text and drive today because we have text-to-speech on just about everyone's phones now so you can just talk to your phone without having to look down and punch the letters. but, you still have to look down to get to your text feature, then find the microphone button, then see if your text is correct before sending it, then read your receiving texts.

it is now illegal in Austin and San Antonio to use and hand-held electronic device while driving or on 2 wheels. the Austin fine is $500 and $200 in San Antonio. since the law went into effect at the beginning of this year, police presence in downtown Austin in the mornings has increased from zero to 2 police bikers at every other intersection for several blocks. maybe it's a coincidence. maybe the city just decided to crack down on broken taillights...
 

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North Carolina started a $300 fine and a moving violation with 3 points but its hard to enforce. The law only covers texting, not dialing. A different law states a warrant is required to inspect a persons phone so an officer cannot determine if the person was dialing or texting.

Our legal system is 200% useless...and no that is not a typo.
 

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As a rider, I am dispositionaly opposed to anything that limits freedom and the responsibility that comes with it. This is of a kind with helmet and alcohol laws. I'm not an anarchist and I am not a totalitarian. There are plenty of laws on the books to deal with reckless driving just as there was with alcohol; enforce them. Rally to support the law, not to add yet another layer.

Now, we have these SPECIAL laws for alcohol and that limits freedom AND the responsibility that comes with it. There are times when being over the legal limit has nothing to do with safety and everything to do with pleasing mob rule. So it will be with phones. At some point, the mob is simply going to start arguing to ban riding, period, in the name of MORE safety. That we're selfish, careless of others, same line of reasoning we always use to get around the Constitutions limits on government.

Punish me for harming someone elses rights. We have those laws.
 

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IMO there are two problems here.

1. Hardly any LEOs or their bosses are even interested in enforcing the law until there's an accident.
2. From the article: "$50 – the penalty in Pennsylvania for texting behind the wheel."

I was rear-ended last year by a lady on the phone, who had a little dog jumping around in the mini-van and who admitted to the officer that she had taken 3 pecodan that morning.

The officer let her drive away.

In the remote possibility that I get pulled over for texting, it's only a $50 dollar fine, so who gives a damn, right?
Not true up here in NY. Not sure what the fine is, but i know it's a decent amount.
 

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As a rider, I am dispositionaly opposed to anything that limits freedom and the responsibility that comes with it. This is of a kind with helmet and alcohol laws. I'm not an anarchist and I am not a totalitarian. There are plenty of laws on the books to deal with reckless driving just as there was with alcohol; enforce them. Rally to support the law, not to add yet another layer.

Now, we have these SPECIAL laws for alcohol and that limits freedom AND the responsibility that comes with it. There are times when being over the legal limit has nothing to do with safety and everything to do with pleasing mob rule. So it will be with phones. At some point, the mob is simply going to start arguing to ban riding, period, in the name of MORE safety. That we're selfish, careless of others, same line of reasoning we always use to get around the Constitutions limits on government.

Punish me for harming someone elses rights. We have those laws.
I think the idea is to curb the activity before the harm can be caused. I agree that we have too many laws but as times change, laws need to aswell. Pre cell phones, we needed no such law, but as they are as common place as clean underwear it has added a problem to driving, same as alcohol and even younger people..so we have age limitations, and drinking limitations, now we need cell limitations all while driving.

But in theory, I understand the basis of your comment.
 

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If people do what I do when it comes to cell phone use we wouldn't have all these problems. When I get a text I don't look at it until I get to my destination or if I pull over for some reason. Then I'll respond to it and keep on moving. If people use common sense we wouldn't have nearly as many dumb laws on the books.
 

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Now, we have these SPECIAL laws for alcohol and that limits freedom AND the responsibility that comes with it. There are times when being over the legal limit has nothing to do with safety and everything to do with pleasing mob rule. So it will be with phones. At some point, the mob is simply going to start arguing to ban riding, period, in the name of MORE safety. That we're selfish, careless of others, same line of reasoning we always use to get around the Constitutions limits on government.
i'd swear you just made an argument for being intoxicated behind the wheel
 

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Last July, our state began tougher enforcement of distracted drivers. Texting while driving, looking at pics on your cell, weaving lane to lane while on your cell, etc. Our county has the 2nd highest fatality rate in the state. Nearly 40% of our wrecks involve distracted drivers. Last weekend in the city of Memphis, just north of of me, a seven time convicted drunk driver hit and killed two teen girls headed to the beach for vacation. Again, the court system failed everyone.
As a 22yr plus LEO, I've nearly seen it all, yet i still try to make a difference. We don't make the rules, we're paid to enforce them, yet a highly paid attorney given enough of a retainer fee can get anyone off. It is NOT true that LEO'S or their bosses are not interested in enforcing the law until there's an accident, we respond to it after its occurred. I write tickets weekly for distracted driving. I don't text and drive on or off duty, that's a double standard. I've seen bikers texting while riding, semi drivers, fellow officers, soccer mom's, you name them. It's not smart no matter who you are. I'm all against the government having total control over everything we do, especially the point our riding priveleges would be jeopardized, yet distracted driving is nearly in epidemic stages.
I've seen DUI cases lost because the officer wrote 1202 on the DUI ticket instead of 1201, really?
The Friday after Thanksgiving in 2014, I made an arrest on felony DUI charges when the suspect blew a .33 BAC on the intoxilyzer at 1210 just after lunch. Do you want this person on the road driving next to your family any day of the week? The person I arrested had consumed a liter bottle of Vodka and had seven bottles of pills in their possession. My best friend from childhood was killed by a drunk driver Mother's day weekend in 1972, two weeks before we were to spend the summer together. The impact was so bad, my friend was decapitated. I can still remember the day vividly when I got the news.

650vstar2003, the officer that investigated your wreck failed you by not investigating to see if she was DUI-D. You can be impaired on pills just like alcohol.
There are tons of silly laws on the books that are very antiquated. They need changing and that's where we as citizens, taxpayers, and voters should be heard. Our system admittedly has tremendous flaws, yet until a better one is introduced, we're stuck with it. For every adult or child that has thanked me or waves hi, ill take the worst day on the job for one of those thank you's.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Last July, our state began tougher enforcement of distracted drivers. Texting while driving, looking at pics on your cell, weaving lane to lane while on your cell, etc. Our county has the 2nd highest fatality rate in the state. Nearly 40% of our wrecks involve distracted drivers. Last weekend in the city of Memphis, just north of of me, a seven time convicted drunk driver hit and killed two teen girls headed to the beach for vacation. Again, the court system failed everyone.
As a 22yr plus LEO, I've nearly seen it all, yet i still try to make a difference. We don't make the rules, we're paid to enforce them, yet a highly paid attorney given enough of a retainer fee can get anyone off. It is NOT true that LEO'S or their bosses are not interested in enforcing the law until there's an accident, we respond to it after its occurred. I write tickets weekly for distracted driving. I don't text and drive on or off duty, that's a double standard. I've seen bikers texting while riding, semi drivers, fellow officers, soccer mom's, you name them. It's not smart no matter who you are. I'm all against the government having total control over everything we do, especially the point our riding priveleges would be jeopardized, yet distracted driving is nearly in epidemic stages.
I've seen DUI cases lost because the officer wrote 1202 on the DUI ticket instead of 1201, really?
The Friday after Thanksgiving in 2014, I made an arrest on felony DUI charges when the suspect blew a .33 BAC on the intoxilyzer at 1210 just after lunch. Do you want this person on the road driving next to your family any day of the week? The person I arrested had consumed a liter bottle of Vodka and had seven bottles of pills in their possession. My best friend from childhood was killed by a drunk driver Mother's day weekend in 1972, two weeks before we were to spend the summer together. The impact was so bad, my friend was decapitated. I can still remember the day vividly when I got the news.

650vstar2003, the officer that investigated your wreck failed you by not investigating to see if she was DUI-D. You can be impaired on pills just like alcohol.
There are tons of silly laws on the books that are very antiquated. They need changing and that's where we as citizens, taxpayers, and voters should be heard. Our system admittedly has tremendous flaws, yet until a better one is introduced, we're stuck with it. For every adult or child that has thanked me or waves hi, ill take the worst day on the job for one of those thank you's.
Count me as one of those thank-yous Keith.
 

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Thank you sir, that is very much appreciated. I just hope one of these days I'll get to see a system in place that truly protects the innocent and makes the guilty responsible for their actions no matter who they are.
 

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this cop is on a mission.





i love how he just sneaks up to people. in Austin, they just sit stationary at traffic lights, but nearly every day on my way to work i see someone pulled over downtown, so it must be working.
 

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I'm the first to oppose nanny-state BS. I think it's ridiculous, for instance, to legislate the wearing of seat belts or helmets. Why? Because you're not going to kill anyone else by failing to do so. Harm yourself, what do I care? Harm others, now there's a public interest. I choose to wear my seatbelt and a helmet out of self-interest. In my state, I can be ticketed for the former, but not the latter. That's just silly. NEITHER should be legislated. I'm free to take risks for me.

Now, having said that. I also think penalties for texting while driving should be just as harsh as DUI. Why? Because both are flagrant disregard for the safety of others. Both CAN cause injury, harm or death to others quite easily.

You can ride down the street wearing nothing but a pair of jockeys... and if you whack into a car, you'll cause no more/less damage to THEM than if you were ATGATT. You may be much more fouled up, but that's your choice and I don't care.

So while I'm definitely a less-gummint, less-nanny sort of guy, I don't find myself opposed to relatively draconian fines/penalties for 'distracted driving' thereby. In fact, I think the rights of riders would be protected by such. Get away from stupid notions that bikes are dangerous (to others) when they're sitting at a light and get rear-ended by texting soccer-mom...
 
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