Should distracted driving penalties be similar to those for DUI?

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Motorcycle rights activists rallied at the Pennsylvania State Capitol on Monday for a bill that would enhance penalties for distracted driving.

The story of Daniel Gallatin has been a driving force.

“On May 7th, 2013, Dan was riding to his daughter’s house on his motorcycle,” Michelle Baughman said during the rally. “Always a safe motorcycle rider, he wore boots, jeans, gloves, a denim jacket, and a helmet. As he was slowing to turn into her driveway, he was rear-ended by a woman driving a Toyota Sequoia.

Dan was killed. Police discovered the woman who hit him had been texting and driving.

“You’re free to make the choice,” Baughman said, “but you’re not free from the consequences of your choice.”

Pennsylvania law meant the woman responsible spent 60 days in jail and paid a few fines. Gallatin’s family said she was able to go back to her normal life; they did not have that option.

“Dan was my dad,” Baughman said through tears. “It was my driveway he was turning into when he was killed due to the actions of a distracted driver.”

After hearing about Daniel’s story, Rep. Jaret Gibbons started pushing for what is now known as Daniel’s Law.

“When you are driving and looking down, looking at a text message, you’re not even looking at the road,” Gibbons said during the rally. “That’s like firing a gun off into the air without looking where it’s going.”

House Bill 853 would allow additional sentences of up to five years when distracted drivers hurt or kill someone.

“It’s not because I think that we want to send people to jail,” Gibbons said, “but because I think we want to stop people from doing it.”

The goal is to bring distracted driving penalties in line with those for DUI.

“We’ve been taught that for years, how serious DUI is, to drive while under the influence of alcohol and drugs,” Gibbons said, “but I think there’s far too casual of a relationship between people and their cell phones as they’re driving.”

The bill is currently in committee. You can read it here.What others are clicking on:

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