It’s no secret that using a cell phone while driving is a dangerous habit, and 46 states have banned all forms of texting while driving. From sending text messages to talking on a cell phone, distracted driving caused by electronic devices is responsible for thousands of automobile accidents across the nation each year.
But what about a remote texter who sends someone a message that they read while driving, become distracted, and cause an accident? Is the sender somehow responsible for distracting the message recipient and thereby causing the accident?
Laws Prohibiting Sending and Reading Text Messages
The state of Illinois enacted legislation in 2014 that specifically prohibits the sending or reading of text messages while driving. Violation of this law is considered a Class A misdemeanor, a primary offense that allows law enforcement personnel to stop drivers specifically for violating it, and giving them sole discretion for whether or not to issue a citation.
Fourteen states completely prohibit the use of handheld devices by drivers. As these and more prohibitions go into effect, many legal questions arise, including whether or not the sender of a text message could be held liable for sending a text that was read by a driver, who was then involved in an accident resulting in injury or death.
New Jersey Court Says Remote Texter Not Liable
In August 2013, the Superior Court of New Jersey held that the sender of a distracting text message was not liable for an ensuing accident under common law, even though she was fully aware that the recipient was operating a motor vehicle when she sent them the text. The court held that a driver is solely responsible for their decision to read and/or answer text messages while driving.
The issue of whether or not to hold remote texters liable for auto accidents is likely going to come up many times in the future, given the increasing use of cellular technology in the world today. The only sure way to prevent distracted driving accidents caused by cell phones: put the phone away when you get behind the wheel.