Texting Someone While He or She Is Driving – Will It Cost You?
In 2011, 387,000 people were injured in road accidents involving a distracted driver. Of all activities that can distract a driver, texting is considered the most dangerous because it takes not only your hands and eyes off driving, but also your mind. Texting while driving is illegal in 38 states. But can you get in trouble if you text a driver knowing that he or she is driving? You can. It happened in New Jersey in 2009.
What Happened in New Jersey
Kyle Best, aged 18, got into a car accident while texting his sweetheart Shannon Colonna. His pick-up truck drifted into opposing traffic and crashed into David and Linda Kubert, who were cruising on their touring motorcycle, at the wrong place and wrong time. Seventeen seconds after Best sent his last text message, he called 911. The Kuberts both lost their left legs.
The Kuberts sued Best, who admitted he was guilty of distracted driving – there was no doubt that his texting had caused the accident. But what happened next was interesting. The Kuberts also sued Colonna, because in their opinion, she and Best were ‘having a verbal conversation through texting,’ and although she was not physically present in the car, she was electronically so. Best and Colonna had exchanged 62 text message that day, according to court documents. (She claimed in court that she was sending about 100 text messages a day.)
Three appeals court judges agreed with the Kuberts’ argument and ruled that if the sender of text messages knows that the recipient is texting while driving, a court may hold the sender responsible for causing the distracted driving, but they stressed that the sender had to know that the driver was behind the wheels.
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Her lawyer, on the other hand, drew attention to the fact that the sender has the right to assume the recipient will read the message at a safe time, placing the responsibility with the driver.
Whether Colonna knew or not that Best was driving while texting was not possible to prove. Eventually the court cleared Colonna because she did not have a duty of care and was thus not responsible of negligence.
What this case did was draw attention to the fact that there are dangers to texting someone when you know that he or she is driving, and that you can get sued for it. Judges won’t dismiss such cases out of hand. On the contrary, they will try to establish whether or not you knew. If you did, you can be in serious trouble.
The Fight Against Distracted Driving
New Jersey is one of the states that have taken a firm stand against texting while driving, making laws that treat it on the same level with drunken driving. Distracted driving is a crime and when an accident happens, it can put the driver behind bars for up to 10 years, as well as force him or her to pay fines of up to $150,000 for bodily injury.
The conclusion? Don’t text while driving. And just to be sure, don’t send a text message or give a call to someone you know is driving. Else you might end up in court.
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