Denise Gallagher was really glad to hear state Rep. Kathy Watson’s voice on the other end of the telephone.
Gallagher lost her daughter, Lacey, a Little Flower High School senior, to a 2007 automobile accident, and Watson has been pushing for legislation promoting teenage driving safety.
The state House of Representatives on Sept. 28 gave final approval to Watson’s measure — dubbed “Lacey’s Law” — sending it to Gov. Tom Corbett’s desk for his signature.
Gallagher said she was crying hysterically when Watson, a Bucks County Republican, delivered the news.
“She was crying with me,” the Fishtown resident said. “She made me a promise four years ago and never, ever gave up, to change the laws in Pennsylvania, and boy, did she mean it. We are so honored.”
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 16-1/2 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 are 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 seatbelt 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.
“It’s an awesome feeling. We fought so hard,” Gallagher said of the bill’s passage. “I always knew Lacey would make a difference in this world.”
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.
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.
After the tragedy, the Gallagher family and friends pushed for driving reforms and established the Lacey Gallagher Memorial Scholarship Fund.
The fund has raised more than $130,000, with scholarship winners each receiving $1,000 to an area Catholic high school.
Money for the fund is raised at three annual events: A golf outing and after-party in the spring, a summer bash at Echo’s nightclub in North Wildwood, N.J., and Lacey Day in the fall.
This year’s Lacey Day is set for Sunday at Holy Name of Jesus parish hall.
“It’s so bittersweet,” Denise Gallagher said of the bill’s passage on the eve of Lacey Day. “I cry for everybody who has lost their children to a tragedy like this. It will save many more lives, so families won’t go through pain and suffering.”
Applications for scholarships will be available in January at www.thelaceyfund.org
Sunday’s event will feature live music, a disc jockey, beer, soda, water, a catered food menu and a Chinese auction. State Farm will hand out safe driving tips.
“It’s amazing,” Gallagher said of the atmosphere. “Family and friends all come out and share stories and memories of Lacey, and it’s all for a good cause. I just want to put out a huge thank you to everybody.”
Here is the list of the current scholarship recipients: St. Hubert: Sarah Armbruster; Little Flower: Erin Crowley, Erin Gallagher, Peyton Andrews, Claudia Espinoza, Mary Hanes, Luciany Melo Da Silva, Kaitlyn Kelly, Erica Rudy and Courtney Lynn Burke; Archbishop Ryan: Alexandra McGrath, Brianna Haines and Erica Yeager.
Also: Roman Catholic (in memory of Ray Lederer): Timothy Goebig, Daniel Shissler, James O’Connell, Alexander Denner and Nicholas Wnek; John W. Hallahan: Kimberly Murphy, Rebecca Valentine, Leani Cuevas, Allison Wentzell and Jacqueline Yanni; St. Joseph’s Prep: Sean McCole, Isiah Fisher and Matthew McIntyre; Bishop Eustace: Kenneth Bergmann; Nazareth Academy: Fizza Faved; Neumann-Goretti: Michael Beck; St. Joseph’s (Hammonton, N.J.): Alexander LaSerre. ••
Reporter Tom Waring can be reached at 215-354-3034 or firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s a great day …
The fifth annual Lacey Day will take place Sunday from 2 to 6 p.m. at Holy Name of Jesus parish hall, at 701 E. Gaul St. in Fishtown.
Tickets cost $30. There will be draft beer, soda, water, food by Cav’s Catering, a performance by the Exceptions, music by Keep ‘Em Dancing DJ Eric and a Chinese auction.
Proceeds benefit the Lacey Gallagher Memorial Scholarship Fund.
For more information, visit www.thelaceyfund.org or call Kevin Bryan (267-979-6891), Denise Dolan (267-978-3864), Marykate Shissler (267-970-6517), Mary Ellen Donahue (215-806-7992), Frank Gallagher (267-972-7455), Bill Dolan (215-783-7907) or Denise Gallagher (267-974-8845).
Donations can be sent to the Lacey Gallagher Memorial Scholarship Fund, c/o treasurer Bill Dolan, 2657 Almond St., Philadelphia, PA 19125. ••