While the following story does not originate here in California, most Bay Area residents have seen the inepititude of people operating their cars while texting. It is an infuriating sight, as the driver exponentially increases his or her chances of being involved in an accident, needlessly harming others in the process.
Drivers are already held responsible here in California for the negligent act, applying fines to guilty parties. However, an interesting case in New Jersey could make both the text receiver and the text sender liable for any car accident that involves texting while driving.
The case involves a texting while driving accident in 2009, when a 17-year-old teenage girl texted her boyfriend. He was driving in his car, and the two had shared numerous texts in the hours prior. Her boyfriend got into a car accident, severing the legs of two motorcyclists. The motorcyclists are suing both the boyfriend for texting while driving; and the girlfriend, for sending the text when she should have known he was driving.
It is an interesting dilemma. On the one hand, the driver should always know that texting while driving is bad. The driver should make the right decision to leave his or her cell phone alone while. But at the same time, if the texter is aware they are driving, constantly sending the driver texts is pretty irresponsible too. The driver looking down at a text is, inherently, initiated by the sender.
An appeals court is hearing the case and will make a decision soon — but do not let this story cloud the issue of texting while driving. It is a bad, and illegal, decision, and there are few circumstances (such as an emergency) where it should be done. When it is done negligently, texting drivers should be held responsible by the victims.
Source: ABA Journal, “Can remote texter be liable if driver is distracted by message? Appeals court mulls novel theory,” Martha Neil, May 6, 2013