Woman shares loss with Hickory students, warns against texting and driving

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HERMITAGE, Pa. (WKBN) – Students at Hickory High School had the opportunity to learn about the dangers of distracted driving through a driving simulator and a sad true story on Friday.

“Sometimes people think they’re the masters of multi-tasking but when you’re driving, that isn’t the time to be doing that,” said Jill Harry, with PennDOT.

Penalties for texting while driving went up in Pennsylvania earlier this year. It took a tragedy to create them.

Michelle Gallatin shared a real-life story with the teenagers. Her father, Daniel, was on a motorcycle four years ago when it was hit from behind by a driver who was texting.

“It gave me chills. I can’t even imagine what she was going through. Makes me not want to do it at all,” said senior Colton Moretti.

The person who caused Daniel’s death only spent 60 days in jail.

“This was my dad. It happened in front of our house five months before my wedding, so I didn’t have a dad to walk me down the aisle,” Gallatin said. “So no punishment, to me, is going to be stiff enough, but we are happy with how this turned out.”

She worked with a state lawmaker to change Pennsylvania’s law and create harsher penalties. Daniel’s Law went into effect in January. It can add five years of jail time to a driver who causes a fatal crash and two years for a serious injury.

Gallatin said the law is in accordance with how DUI laws are set.

“You better believe we’re going to research into your phone and we’re going to find out if you were texting while operating,” said Hermitage Police Chief Eric Jewell.

There are so many things that can take a driver’s attention away from the road — a text, tweet, email, voicemail, even Snapchat. Ending those distractions could make for fewer families experiencing heartache.

“If it saves one life, if it makes one person put their phone down and prevents an accident, prevents a death, prevents someone from crashing…that’s what we’re aiming for,” Gallatin said.

Pennsylvania had 66 deaths from 14,000 distracted driving crashes in the latest yearly crash totals. There were over 3,000 deaths nationwide and another 421,000 people hurt.

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