Viewpoint: Text Laws

By on September 8, 2013

Back in 2009, in New Jersey, a couple that was hit by a car while riding their motorcycle settled on agreements with the driver that hit them, but they weren’t satisfied with just the settlement. The couple “also sued his 17-year-old girlfriend, who had texted him shortly before the crash” ( Luckily for her, the court didn’t find her liable because it seemed she didn’t know her boyfriend was driving, but that’s also an unsaid way of saying that by texting someone who is driving, you could also be liable if a crash were to happen.

And that’s what the court ruled; their public response was that they “hold that the sender of a text message could potentially be liable if an accident is caused by texting but only if the sender knew or had special reason to know that the recipient would view the text while driving and thus be distracted” (CNN). So if someone receives a text and the sender knows the receiver is driving, then they had better text their lawyer if an accident happens. Those who don’t know that the receiver is driving are in the clear, though. On the surface this law makes sense but upon further thinking, it seems ridiculous.

Even if someone sends a text it is ultimately the driver who is responsible for picking their phone up and possibly getting into an accident. If the text was really that important then the driver can pull over and read it before continuing driving. And proving that someone knew another was driving when they sent the text would be hard to prove unless it was stated somewhere in their texts. Otherwise, it is easy to deny; if the driver happens to die, then there would be no one to speak out on that and the sender could get away free. But if the sender didn’t know and the driver does survive then the driver can try to throw blame on the sender when the sender didn’t know at all. It is too easy for those who did know a receiver was driving to get away and for the innocent to be incarcerated. That’s why this law is ridiculous: because it isn’t a simple open and shut case.

And if this is happening with texting, then how long will it be until someone is liable for calling while a person is driving or being called by the driver? They could easily hold their conversation with the non-driving party never knowing the other end was driving. But if an accident happens because the call was still going on the innocent caller can he held for distracting the driver.

Even though there might be guilt on the person not driving, it is far too complicated to determine for sure and, as previously stated, it is the driver’s responsibility. No one told them to use their phones while driving; it is purely their choice.

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