Tragic Crash Leads to Creation of Daniel’s Law
The driver was sentenced to serve 23 months in county jail, but just 60 days later, she sought parole and was released.
If it weren’t enough that a careless driver had taken Gallatin from his loving family, the person responsible for the tragedy was walking free in such a remarkably short time.
It was then that Gallatin’s daughter, Michelle Gallatin-Baughman, became determined to do something.
“My dad was so involved in so many things, he was a volunteer fireman for 40 years, he was involved with the New Castle Honor Guard, the Shriners, the Masons, he was very busy volunteering and helping others,” Gallatin-Baughman said. “His death was entirely preventable. And, the sentence was a slap in the face. Sixty days for taking a life is not acceptable at all.”
Gallatin-Baughman went to work to beef up the penalties for those that cause an accident while texting and driving.
She tried to find someone with political influence to help her cause, but was rebuffed before then-state Rep. Jaret Gibbons, who served District 10 from 2006-2016, went to bat for the family.
“Jaret was so gracious, so nice to work with us, he restored our faith in politicians. He sat and listened to us,” Gallatin-Baughman said.
She was also amazed at the support she and her family received from motorcycle organization Alliance of Bikers Aimed Toward Education (ABATE) and the American Motorcyclist Association, who worked with the family and Gibbons.
“It’s still kind of overwhelming at the support we received,” Gallatin-Baughman said.
With Gibbons sponsoring House Bill 853, Governor Tom Wolf signed it into law a little more than a year ago.
The measure, also known as Daniel’s Law, means drivers who text while driving could spend two to five years in prison if that activity causes an accident in Pennsylvania.
It also provides a sentencing enhancement of up to five years for an accident involving texting while driving that results in a death, or up to two years if there is a serious injury.
“It puts the penalties more in line with what DUI receives,” Gallatin-Baughman said. “We didn’t want our father’s memory to be marred by what happened. We wanted to remember him for who he was and all the good he did.”
In a New Castle News story at ncnewsonline.com, Lawrence County Common Pleas Court Judge J. Craig Cox, who sentenced the driver in the 2013 crash that claimed Gallatin’s life, said at the bill signing that “the severity of texting while driving needed to be changed. Today, we accomplished that.”
Cox said that studies have shown texting while driving can be as dangerous as drunk driving.
Then, Rep. Gibbons commented that “It is my hope that the awareness we’ve created with this law, along with the increased penalties for texting while driving, will help prevent another senseless loss of life.”
“Our desire was to prevent more senseless loss of life. and if anyone makes the tragic mistake of texting while driving and harms or kills someone, the consequences would be in line with the grievous nature of the decision.”
Gallatin-Baughman has had the opportunity to speak at some area schools about the dangers of texting and driving.
“It’s an honor to be able to speak to young people and spread the word. We are so connected to our phones. We want to teach people how to use their phones safely,” she said.
For more information, go to www.facebook.com/pg/DanielsLawHB853/.
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