HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Gov. Tom Wolf has signed legislation to enhance penalties for crashes caused by drivers who were texting behind the wheel.
The new law, which takes effect in 60 days, gives judges the option to enhance a sentence by up to five more years in prison when a driver who was texting is convicted of a crash that resulted in severe injury or death.
Wolf said texting while driving has been demonstrated to be just as dangerous as drunk driving and has been allowed to go under-punished for far too long.
“Distracted driving has fatal, irreversible, and grave consequences and by signing this bill, I hope to make our roads and highways safer for our citizens, and everyone using them,” the governor said in a statement.
Wolf’s office said more than 14,800 crashes in Pennsylvania last year, resulting in 66 deaths, were caused by drivers who were texting.
Gia Glinatsis owned Dulcis Salon in Camp Hill. Her life ended at just 37 years old due a teen texting and driving on June 15, 2015.
“To everybody else what took place happened about a year and a half ago, but to us four, it happened yesterday,” said Mike Glinatsis, Gia’s husband.
Upper Allen Township Police say a 16-year-old boy crossed over the center line along Gettysburg Road while he was texting and hit Gia’s car head on.
“When the police officers explained to me that my wife passed away, that only pales by the fact that I had to tell my three children that their mother was in heaven,” Mike said.
Mike had to tell their three kids Gia wasn’t coming home. “Daniel’s Law,” applies to people who send, read, or write texts while their vehicle is in motion.
“I think it’s a good idea. I think we need definitely try to do something to increase the penalties to make drivers more aware of those penalties and that their actions could lead to spending time in jail,” said Cpl. Brian Shull, patrol commander with the Carlisle Police Department.
Carlisle Police say people who text often drive as bad or worse than drunk drivers.
“If one young kid would have waited to text somebody, my kids could still call for their mother. They haven’t called for their mother in a year and a half,” Mike said.
Mike urges people to wait until they’re done driving to text because as he knows all too well, that can take a life in an instant.