cell phone, cell phone prohibition, don't text a driver, don't text and drive, drivers safety, driving, hand-free devices, New Jersey, safe driving, stephen "skippy" weinstein, text message, texters liability, texting, texting while driving, third-party texters, traffic, traffic accident, traffic safety
Ovation: Don’t Text And Drive And Don’t Text A Driver … You Could Be Held Liable In The Event Of An Accident.
While driving in traffic earlier this week, I had the misfortune to find myself behind a late-model Honda driven by a young person wearing a hat. I don’t know if it was a man or a woman but I’m certain that it was a “distracted driver”. I could see by the silhouette in front of me that his/her hat was sitting uncomfortably on his/her head as it was adjusted dozens of times as the miles passed. Then, at a speed upwards of sixty-miles-per-hour, he/she picked up a cell phone. It was clear to me that he/she had received a text message.
This driver then proceeded to swerve left to right, crossing the white line and then crossing the yellow line, for several miles. I backed away significantly as I would from a driver whom I suspect to be under the influence of alcohol and said to myself, “I wonder if the person texting them knows that they’re driving …”
A New Jersey State appeals court recently ruled that third-party texters could bear responsibility in texting-related automobile accidents. The court’s opinion was in response to a claim against a young woman who sent a text message to a gentleman friend just before his pickup truck veered out of its lane, hitting a husband and wife on their motorcycle. The claim was dismissed by the court but lead appellate judges to hear the case in order to define the liability of third-party texters.
The ruled that, in the state of New Jersey, third-party texters could be held liable if they knew that the person they were texting is behind the wheel.
“The key here is that it’s the first time in the nation that any court has held that somebody can be electronically present, although not physically present, in a vehicle with knowledge that the other person is operating a motored vehicle and the two texting can be civilly responsible for damages that occur as result.” – Attorney Stephen “Skippy” Weinstein
Basically, the judged determined that when a texter knows or has special reason to know that the intended recipient is driving and is likely to read the text message while driving, the texter has a duty to users of the public roads to refrain from sending the driver a text at that time. The court did say that, generally, “we do not hold that someone who texts to a person driving is liable for that person’s negligent actions.”
Currently, only twelve states prohibit talking on a cell phone unless the driver is using a hands-free device. I’m hopeful that, because New Jersey courts are held in high esteem, this ruling will set a precedent regarding text messages that will sweep across the nation.
I wonder if the person texting the driver in front of me the other day would have stopped if they knew how much they were influencing his/her driving and, consequently, endangering the rest of us on the highway.
We all know that it’s not safe to text and drive. We need to be reminded that it’s also not safe to text a driver. I’m in favor of any idea that discourages texting behind the wheel.
What do you think? Should third-party texters be held accountable for traffic accidents in which their messages are involved?
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