We all know the facts: Texting while driving is stupid. The inherent danger that goes along with taking your eyes off the road repeatedly as you type away is obvious. Knowing that it’s stupid, however, hasn’t stopped people from doing it, and states have been forced to take the matter into their own hands. To date, according to an August report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 41 out of 50 U.S. states have adopted a complete ban on driver texting, with an additional six states taking on partial bans.
But friends of drivers beware. As the American Bar Association reported, a New Jersey appeals court ruled that you can be held liable for sending a distracting text to a driver if that text results in a crash. Before you don your torches and pitchforks and storm the castle walls, there is a bit of a catch (if you can call it one): you can only be held accountable if it’s clear that you knew your pal was behind the wheel. The decision comes from a case in which a 17-year-old, Shannon Colonna, texted her 18-year-old friend, Kyle Best. Within 30 seconds of receiving the text, Best was involved in an accident seriously injuring two motorcyclists.
“We conclude that a person sending text messages has a duty not to text someone who is driving if the texter knows, or has special reason to know, the recipient will view the text while driving,” the Appellate Division of New Jersey Superior Court said. However, in this case, the court ruled that there was not enough evidence to convict Colonna of any wrongdoing. (We should add: she sent a single text to Best immediately before the accident; the only other text she sent him was two hours prior. To boot, the plaintiffs had already settled claims against the actual driver.)
Whether this is a standard that will take flight is yet to be seen. At the end of the day, we can’t help but wonder – when push comes to shove, is it not the responsibility of the driver to ignore incoming text messages while driving? They are, after all, the ones behind the wheel, and ultimately in charge of keeping their eyes on the road.
What do you think? Should a remote texter be liable if the recipient then gets into a car accident?