New Jersey top court says texters hold some responsibility for distracted drivers

U.S. -

An appeals court in New Jersey ruled in a texting-while-driving case that people have a "duty" to not distract drivers on the road with text messages.

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"We hold that the sender of a text message can 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." Superior Court of New Jersey Appellate Division

The top state appeals court in New Jersey ruled Aug. 27 in a case involving a 2009 accident caused by a driver distracted by texts from a friend. The decision could lead to future prosecutions of people proven to have sent texts to drivers.

The appeals court didn't find the defendant liable for the accident in 2009, saying there was no way to prove the defendant knew the person being texted was driving at the time. It did, however, accept the argument that a person has a duty not to send texts to somebody they know is driving at the time.

The court's ruling doesn't apply to any law, saying a texter's duty was "limited," and that "one should not be held liable for sending a wireless transmission simply because some recipient might use his cell phone unlawfully and become distracted while driving."

A May study based on 2011 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed 43% of high school-age drivers said they had texted while driving in the last 30 days. In June, AAA had a study showing hands-free technologies may actually be more distracting than making calls on a cell phone.

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