We all know that in many states it is illegal to text and drive. The dangers associated with distracted driving are clear. However, the courts currently are trying to determine whether or not a person who knowingly texts someone who is driving can be held accountable if the person receiving the text is an accident. Recently in New Jersey, three judges decided that you don’t need to be the one driving to have accountability.
In 2009, a couple was badly injured when a truck driving in the opposite lane drifted into the center of the road and hit them while they were riding their motorcycle. As a result of the accident, both victims lost their left legs among other serious injuries. While they had already finished settling the case with the driver of the truck – who was convicted of texting and driving, they wanted to sue the driver’s girlfriend who had been sending him text messages right before the accident. Police were able to break down the events that happened during that day to determine that the driver had sent a text to his girlfriend mere seconds before the accident.
While the girlfriend was found not liable in this case because the judges believed she wasn’t aware her boyfriend was driving when she was texting him, they made it clear that a texter may be held personally responsible if that person knowingly is texting with someone that is driving. This liability may include paying for personal injuries or the damages caused to the vehicle.
Currently, countrywide debates are happening over whether or not it should be illegal to text someone who you know is driving. As of Sept. 1 texting and driving in Texas is illegal. Some courts may find a defendant liable in a civil lawsuit for doing so in that current laws in many states place liability on a person for distracting a driver who is in an accident. This law can be used to place responsibility on the texter, as they are virtually present in the vehicle and distracting them with their texts.
While it isn’t illegal yet, lawmakers are cracking down on texting while driving as accounts of accidents caused by distracted driving surmount. The harsh penalties currently in place for those caught texting and driving in some states are equivalent to those penalties for drinking while driving. Many states soon may allow police offers to check a driver’s phone for texts after an accident. These possible laws are all being considered in order to reduce the amount of vehicular accidents caused by texting and driving.
While a great deal of support exists for holding a texter responsible for damages if he or she is aware the person being texted is driving, many others believe this step goes too far in the fight against texting while driving. The opposition thinks the blame shouldn’t be placed on the person who sends the text as the driver is the one who is responsible for whether they read it and respond immediately or wait for a safe time to do so. Clearly, one of the biggest questions up for debate is how can someone know when the person they are texting is driving? Others believe you should simply ask a person if he or she is driving; however, this begs the question as to whether the one answer text of “yes” could be a fatal one.
Most reports say that distracted drivers cause approximately 20% of car accidents, and unfortunately. numbers are on the rise. Distracted driving could be texting and driving or anything involving taking your eyes off the road. While most people believe that texting and driving should be illegal, some states are reluctant to make it so. The debate for certain will continue though. Only time will tell if in the future if blame will be placed on the person knowingly texting others who are driving.
Regardless of the laws, for your own safety, and for the safety of others on the road, put down phones and focus on the road. If you believe there is any chance someone is driving, wait to text until you know they are off the road. Otherwise you may be contributing to possible harm and may be held personally responsible if you choose to take the risk.