It’s official: ‘Lacey’s Law’ is approved and signed

The fam­ily of Lacey Galla­gh­er traveled to Har­ris­burg last week to at­tend the sign­ing of a bill in­spired by the teen­ager’s death in 2007.

Lacey, a Fishtown res­id­ent and Little Flower High School seni­or, died in a car ac­ci­dent four years ago. Since then, her fam­ily and friends have been push­ing for le­gis­la­tion pro­mot­ing teen­age driv­ing safety.

On Sept. 28, the House of Rep­res­ent­at­ives gave fi­nal ap­prov­al to House Bill 9, “Lacey’s Law,” send­ing it to Gov. Tom Corbett’s desk for his sig­na­ture.

Corbett signed the bill, sponsored by Bucks County Re­pub­lic­an Rep. Kathy Wat­son, dur­ing an Oct. 25 ce­re­mony in the safe driv­ing classroom at Har­ris­burg High School.

“It was a beau­ti­ful ce­re­mony,” said Den­ise Galla­gh­er, Lacey’s mom.

Ac­cord­ing to stat­ist­ics from AAA, the chances of a 16-year-old driver dy­ing in a crash in­crease 39 per­cent with one teen­age pas­sen­ger, 86 per­cent with two teen pas­sen­gers and 182 per­cent with three or more teen pas­sen­gers.

More than half of teen driver and pas­sen­ger deaths are the dir­ect res­ult of fail­ure to use seat belts.

House Bill 9 re­quires that:

• Drivers 16? to 18 are per­mit­ted to trans­port only one oth­er pas­sen­ger un­der 18 for the first six months that they have their li­censes. Ex­emp­tions ap­ply for fam­ily mem­bers and if a par­ent or leg­al guard­i­an is in the vehicle.

• All drivers and pas­sen­gers un­der 18 must be buckled up or prop­erly re­strained in a child safety or boost­er seat. Fail­ure to do so would be a primary of­fense, mean­ing that po­lice can pull over a vehicle if an of­ficer sus­pects someone is not wear­ing a seat belt or prop­erly re­strained. Cur­rently, it is a sec­ond­ary of­fense.

• Per­mit hold­ers must take be­hind-the-wheel train­ing for 65 hours, rather than 50. Ten of the hours must be after dark, and five must be dur­ing in­clement weath­er.

“I am joined today by fam­ily mem­bers of chil­dren we have lost, and we all agree that ‘Lacey’s Law’ is the next step in keep­ing our chil­dren safe when they be­gin driv­ing on their own,” Corbett said.

The bill will take ef­fect 60 days from the sign­ing, which will be Dec. 24.

“That’s quite a Christ­mas present,” Den­ise Galla­gh­er said.

Lacey Galla­gh­er was 18 when she died April 28, 2007, fol­low­ing her seni­or prom. She and six friends were rid­ing in a sport util­ity vehicle on a wet and foggy night at about 3 a.m. on the Pennsylvania Turn­pike’s North­east Ex­ten­sion, south of the Quaker­town exit, on their way to the Po­cono Moun­tains.

The driver lost con­trol of the vehicle, which hit a con­crete bar­ri­er and rolled over be­fore land­ing on its roof. Lacey was ejec­ted and killed, while her friends were taken to the hos­pit­al with in­jur­ies. None were wear­ing seat belts. Drugs and al­co­hol were not factors.

“Teen drivers out there may feel that they are be­ing singled out by this bill and, the fact is, they are,” Corbett said. “Each of our chil­dren, like Lacey Galla­gh­er, rep­res­ents our fu­ture, our hopes and our dreams. We are not ready to give them up to a need­less ac­ci­dent, and we sup­port this bill be­cause we care so much for them.”

Den­ise Galla­gh­er said the bill sign­ing brought her fam­ily some peace, and they plan to spread aware­ness of the new law.

“Lives will be saved,” she said.

Galla­gh­er called the new law a “great start,” adding that she sup­ports forth­com­ing le­gis­la­tion to out­law tex­ting while driv­ing.

Lacey was the second-old­est of four chil­dren of Frank and Den­ise Galla­gh­er. Old­est son, Sean, has a 2-year-old daugh­ter named Lacey. Bri­anna gradu­ated from Little Flower in June. Alex­is is a ju­ni­or at Little Flower.

The Galla­gh­er fam­ily and friends have es­tab­lished the Lacey Galla­gh­er Me­mori­al Schol­ar­ship Fund, which dis­trib­utes $1,000 to es­say con­test win­ners who at­tend area Cath­ol­ic high schools.

Ap­plic­a­tions for schol­ar­ships will be avail­able in Janu­ary at www.thelacey­ ••

Re­port­er Tom War­ing can be reached at 215-354-3034 or twar­

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