Paul J. Miller
August 3, 1988 — July 5, 2010
At 3pm on Independence Day, 2010, Paul Miller hugged and kissed his mom Eileen farewell for what neither could possibly know would be the last time.
Paul was heading out to a party and ended up spending the night with friends, then headed for home the next morning, via PA State Route 33.
Paul’s thing in life was baseball and his passion was for the Yankees.
Eileen says that she always knew he was going to play for Lackawana College when he got there, but he knew by then that he was never going to play for the Yankees because he said “I’ve really got to buckle down and I’m just going to stick to my academics right now…” Eileen knew when he said this that he had become a man.
All of his life, Paul wanted to become a police officer.
What Paul could never have known, on his way home on July 5, was that coming the other way was a tractor-trailer which had been seen repeatedly veering back and forth across the road, and speeding.
As the two vehicles came closer, the tractor-trailer went out of control and crossed over a grassy median then hit Paul’s car head-on, slamming it backwards up an embankment.
Following behind Paul’s car was a passenger van carrying 12 people, and it slammed into the tractor-trailer.
Paul was killed. All 12 of the people in the van were injured, some of them very seriously, but thankfully all of them survived.
“I literally had to unzip a body bag and look at the clothes from the night before to view my child. And that should never happen to somebody’s child. You should never, ever have to go to a morgue and identify your child…. You don’t want to be the one to have two state troopers come to your door and tell you you’ve lost a loved one.” — Eileen Woelkers Miller
On the day that Paul died, Eileen swore that she would find out what happened to him and fight for change.
Following Paul’s death, Eileen says that some of the worst trauma for her was probably the legal process. She was told that the driver of the tractor-trailer was never going to get prison-time for killing Paul. However, largely due to Eileen’s persistence, the driver — having by then admitted that he had been reaching for a phone at the time of the crash — eventually appeared in court on March 22, 2013, to be sentenced for the crime of involuntary manslaughter. He was given 1-3 years in prison and was subsequently released after serving 17 months.
Each year, on the weekend closest to Paul’s birthday, the family hold a memorial benefit to celebrate his life, and also as their way of ‘paying it forward’ for him, by using money raised to help save lives on our roads.
Despite overwhelming research evidence, Pennsylvania State Representative Rosemary Brown’s legislation — HB1684 — did not become law during the 2017-18 legislative session. In 2019, the bill was reintroduced as HB37, which would ban hand-held cell phone use while driving in Pennsylvania. At the time of writing (September 2019), it is still not the law.
Paul Miller’s story, together with sections about other victims of distracted driving, is given in more detail in this very professional video.