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November 04, 2016

Wolf signs harsher penalties for texting while driving into law

Gov. Tom Wolf signed a bill into law Friday that will make drivers think twice about texting while driving if they already aren't.

"Daniel's Law" makes it so that drivers distracted by their cell phones could receive up to five years in prison if the violation resulted in the death of another person. Other incidents that cause "serious bodily injury" could land the driver a two-year sentence. 

Previously, the highest fine for violating texting laws, a primary offense, in Pennsylvania was $50.

Wolf said that texting while operating a vehicle is just as dangerous as drunk driving.

"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," Wolf said in a statement released Friday.

The law is named after Daniel Gallatin, a Pennsylvania father and former fireman, who was struck and killed by a driver who was texting and driving.

That driver served 60 days in jail as well as seven months of work release and later house arrest on manslaughter charges, according to WPXI Pittsburgh.

In Pennsylvania, more than 14,800 crashes were caused by drivers distracted by cell phones in 2015, with 66 deaths, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.