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Editorial: Deana’s Law to prevent drunken driving by repeat offenders is a testament to family’s determination

It should not have been this hard.

The state House and Senate at last have passed HB773 also known as Deana’s Law, to increase penalties for multiple DUI offenders in Pennsylvania. The bill bears the name and is numbered for the birth month, July 1973, of Deana DeRosa Eckman, a Delaware County woman killed when her car was struck by the vehicle of a drunken driver who had numerous previous offenses.

Deana was riding in a 2019 Subaru WRX driven by her husband, Chris, on their way home from a family gathering Feb. 16, 2019, when their car was hit head-on by a Ram 2500 pickup truck that had crossed into their lane. The truck’s driver, David Strowhouer, 32, of Willistown Township, had five previous driving under the influence offenses but was not in jail. At the time of the crash, authorities said Strowhouer’s blood-alcohol level was 0.199%, and he had traces of cocaine, diazepam and marijuana in his system.

Strowhouer had five prior DUIs on his record since 2010 and was on probation for a previous offense at the time of the crash. He was also driving with a suspended license. After the crash, Strowhouer pleaded guilty to third-degree murder, aggravated assault, accidents involving death or injury, driving under the influence and driving with a suspended license. He appealed but was resentenced last November to 24 to 51 years in prison after the state Superior Court upheld the conviction.

Deana’s parents Rich and Roseann DeRosa started pushing for tougher DUI laws not long after the crash more than three years ago, originally working with then state Rep. Tom Killion of Delaware County. The DeRosas carried on the fight to get legislation passed after Killion was replaced and through several setbacks.

“The grief me and my husband carry every day is torture and never-ending. … Losing a child is the most heart-wrenching, chest-crushing, breath-stealing tragedy on Earth. My life will never be the same because nothing in this world will ever fill the space that belonged to only her,” said Roseann DeRosa in a 2021 hearing in Harrisburg.

“This bill targets the worst repeat DUI offenders — the offenders who drive on our roadways constantly drunk until they ultimately kill an innocent person,” she said.

In addition to the DeRosas’ personal lobbying, friends, relatives and Delaware County residents waged a letter-writing campaign to legislators and newspapers. Published editorials urged passage of the law.

The legislative process bogged down more than once, derailed in 2020 largely due to an amendment that carved out marijuana “used lawfully” under the state’s Medical Marijuana Act from definitions for a “controlled substance.”

A new pair of bills was introduced in March 2021 by state Sen. Bob Mensch, R-24th Dist., and state Rep. Chris Quinn, R-168th Dist. Although legislators were optimistic for passage last year, the marathon that is business in Harrisburg wound on until a July 7 vote in the state Senate put this over the finish line.

It should not have taken this long. Deana’s Law is not that complicated, and it makes sense. When a person is arrested more than four times for a DUI offense, jail time should be consecutive rather than concurrent.

Following Senate passage, Gov. Tom Wolf signed the bill, at last bringing to fruition the DeRosas’ fight. Deana’s Law is a testament to the fortitude of parents determined that their daughter’s death mean something, that other families can be spared this pain and that people can drive home from a family gathering without risk to their lives from repeat DUI offenders. This law honors the memory of Deana Eckman not only for its effect in keeping the most serious drunken drivers off the road but as a symbol of a community’s efforts to create change. The wheels in Harrisburg turn slowly, but this time, a local cause won out. We honor the DeRosa family for not giving up in their quest. Deana’s Law is a reality at last.


Source: Berkshire mont

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