‘I always knew Lacey would make a difference in this world’

It has been more than four years since Lacey Galla­gh­er died in an auto­mobile ac­ci­dent. “Lacey’s Law” was re­cently passed to pro­mote teen­age driv­ing safety.

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 twar­ing@bsmphilly.com

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. ••

You can reach at twaring@bsmphilly.com.

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