EDITORIAL: A death that didn’t have to be

New York State Trooper Joseph J. Gallagher
New York State Trooper Joseph J. Gallagher

New York State Trooper Joseph J. Gallagher died Saturday.

You probably didn’t hear about the crash that killed him. It was on Long Island. And it was over three years ago.

But every time you get behind the wheel and reach for that phone to answer a call or read a text or type in a response or check your Facebook, remember Trooper Gallagher.

For the past three years, since the day he was struck by a car while helping a disabled motorist near the Long Island Expressway a few days before Christmas in 2017, Trooper Gallagher has been living in a nursing facility for people with traumatic brain injuries.

The injuries he suffered left the 38-year-old father of two without the ability to walk, talk or eat without help, until he finally succumbed to his injuries last week.

At the time of the crash, the driver who struck Trooper Gallagher, 24-year-old Jesse Cohen, was conducting three separate texting conversations on his phone.

In the 20 minutes prior to coming upon the trooper, prosecutors at his sentencing said, Cohen had sent and received dozens of text messages and had several social media apps open.

At his sentencing — a mere 30 days time served in jail and community service — Cohen admitted using poor judgment and tearfully took responsibility.

But ask yourself if that would be enough for you if you were Trooper Gallagher’s wife, Laura, or his 6-year-old son, William, or his 3-year-old daughter, Catherine.

Would the driver’s apologies and tears and guilty conscience and community service make up for the pain and death?

This is a not-so-subtle reminder of how you can destroy many lives in an instant by selfishly playing on your phone when you should be focused on your driving.

In the one second you’re looking at your phone, your car at just 40 mph will travel 60 feet. In five seconds, the length of a football field.

By the time you get to that police officer or disabled vehicle or bicyclist or pedestrian, it’s way too late to stop.

It’s getting to be spring. We’re emerging from our covid cocoon and getting out on the roads again.

Pay attention to your driving and forget your phone until you’re in a safe place to pull over. Don’t be the driver who kills for a few minutes of poor judgment and instant gratification.

Trooper Gallagher’s funeral is next Wednesday. He didn’t have to die this way.

No one ever should.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

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