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Waking Up to Drowsy Driving: Part 1 | Lancaster County family seeking change to state laws penalizing impairment

Joshua Bishop, 35, was struck and killed by a driver who told police he fell asleep at the wheel in May 2020.

MOUNT JOY, Pa. — In Sandy Pittenturf's eyes, her son Joshua was an American hero.

He was a decorated Army veteran, having served three tours overseas—two in Iraq, one in Afghanistan, as a minesweeper who risked his life for his country every day.

"He was a real warrior," Pittenturf said. "He wanted to be a soldier since he was 5-years-old."

The memories are posted all throughout Sandy's home in Mt. Joy Borough, Lancaster County. Pictures of Josh from his time in the wars, and pictures since Josh returned home in 2017. He and his wife Phyllicia were forced to move into his mother's home in an effort to save money, as Josh was trying to get the money he deserved.

FOX43 first met the Bishops in May 2017, when Josh was fighting the Army for more than $30,000 in unpaid retirement funds which were being withheld because he failed to properly fill out paperwork. 

He suffered through post-traumatic stress disorder, and couldn't find a stable job. According to Phyllicia, the Army never paid the Bishops Joshua's retirement money.

However, when the COVID-19 pandemic struck in 2020, Josh's life was finally settling down. His three kids, two sons and a daughter, were growing up fast. Joshua even started making TikTok videos to enhance his coolness credibility with his preteen children.

Credit: WPMT FOX43/Phyllicia Bishop

"He was great to be around it with the kids," Phyllicia said. "He was a big cuddle bear. Super lovable. And whether it was work or his friends, everyone loved him."

He also found a stable job, doing roadside traffic control for W.D. Wright Contracting in York County, which he was doing the morning of May 14, 2020.

Sandy was home playing with the kids in bed when the phone kept ringing.

"And I kept ignoring it," she said. "I don't know who [was calling]. I was having fun with the kids. And this number kept calling. I finally answered." 

The phone call was from Joshua's work, who said he was in an accident and was taken to the hospital.

Joshua died before Sandy and Phyllicia could see him. He was sorting traffic cones outside the York Fairgrounds in West Manchester Township when he was struck and killed along the side of the road. According to the police report, the driver, Aaron Miller, was going more than 36 miles per hour when he told officers he fell asleep. 

Credit: West Manchester Twp. Police
The affidavit of probable cause against Aaron Miller.

Miller was charged with homicide by vehicle, involuntary manslaughter, reckless driving, and two counts of careless driving. His trial is expected to begin in February. It's a lengthy list of charges, which in Pennsylvania, may not carry a lengthy sentence.

Phyllicia says the York County District Attorney's Office told her that if convicted, Miller could see anywhere between nine and 18 months in prison.

Gregg Freeburn, a personal injury lawyer in Harrisburg, believes that sentence, if convicted, might actually be on the high end of what he's used to seeing.

"Generally speaking, a lot of the accidents we see in our law firm, the individual who caused the accident avoids jail time," he said, adding the same applies to cases where someone died. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a driver who gets behind the wheel of a car having not slept in more than 24 hours, is like a someone who drives with a blood alcohol content of 0.10, which is above the legal limit. 

However, in Pennsylvania, no laws exist which are designed specificially to penalize sleepy or drowsy driving. 

"A lot of time, those individuals have a lapse of judgment, or are on the roadway and they stop paying attention for a second, or they do something that is deemed negligent and therefore not deemed reckless," Freeburn said.

Phyllicia and Sandy say that's not good enough—the punishment doesn't fit the crime, and they're now looking to change state law. 

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