Sending a Text to a Driver Can Get You in Trouble in New Jersey

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We all know that many states have passed laws making it illegal to text and drive. (If you are interested in seeing an updated map showing the states that have such laws, just scroll down to the bottom of this post.)

But recently, New Jersey has taken this one step further. In 2009, there was a horrible accident where it was determined that the cause was texting between a young man and his girlfriend. This particular case raised the issue: should the sender be responsible as well?

This week, the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division, said YES:

“if the sender knows that the recipient is both driving and will read the text immediately, then the sender has taken a foreseeable risk in sending a text at that time. The sender has knowingly engaged in distracting conduct, and it is not unfair also to hold the sender responsible for the distraction.”

Now in this particular case, the suit was dismissed against the girlfriend-sender because they could not prove that she knew her boyfriend was driving when she sent the texts.

However, the door is now open for future actions against a sender who knows the receiver is driving.

I spent a little time looking around the internet and my unscientific search seemed to show most commenters firmly coming down on the side of “this is stupid.” (That’s an exact quote I read often.)

I’m not sure what I think. I do know that I would never text someone I knew was driving… that’s just plain common sense.

But basically I believe the responsibility should sit firmly with the person doing the driving. No sharing the blame. Just don’t look at your phone when you are behind the wheel. No excuses.

What do you think?

You can read more about this here and here.


credit: USA Today

credit: USA Today

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12 thoughts on “Sending a Text to a Driver Can Get You in Trouble in New Jersey

  1. I think it should be like that worldwide. There was a program here in the UK – or it could have been on the internet I saw it – about people who’s last text was on the phone of someone who had died in a car accident as a result of them. I think programs like these should be played often as it may get the message across that ANY use of a mobile phone should not be done. Pull over if you think it is urgent.

  2. Responsibility belongs to the driver. My family knows not to text while driving and I hope they stick with this rule. Caller or texter has no way to know if or when the receiver is driving. Families need to communicate, but drivers can wait till they reach the destination before turning on the phone!

    • I agree with you. Responsibility has to be with the driver. No excuses. As you say, within a family we frequently know when someone is on the road. My husband, for example, is a commuter, and I would never text him during that time. But, no matter … it is the driver’s responsibility, I think.

  3. Thank you so much for putting up that map!! Unfortunately, my state is grey!! 😦

    I think the blame should lie strictly with the one who picks up the cell and reads the text. It’s like the times the defense attorneys have tried to blame the seller of guns/bullets on someone’s death. The blood of the dead person is on the hands of the shooter. Yes, I know they have cited bartenders being responsible for cutting off people who are obviously drunk and being responsible for taking their keys or calling a cab. Anyone can link anything if they want to — like how polls/statistics are based upon how a question is phrased, where the one answering the questions lives, etc. Stupid is stupid, whether it’s texting while driving, driving drunk, putting on makeup while driving, screaming at other drivers with your eyes on them and not the road, etc. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t stop stupid. (I should make a t-shirt with that on it!! HA!!)

    On a lighter side, I follow one comic strip online that I’ve loved for years: “Zits.” If you don’t know it, it’s about the life of a teenage boy, Jeremy, and his parents, his guy friends, his girlfriend, etc. Most of the times I at least smile when I read it and many times have LOL’d at his attitude, perspective, etc. One time he was with his pal in the car and he was driving. Hector kept telling him not to text. Suddenly they’re rear-ended. It turns out to be Jeremy’s girlfriend, Sara. They were texting each other. In real life it wouldn’t be funny. In the comic strip it shows the obsession with texting. Once Jeremy & Sara were sitting at the same table across from each other, never once looking at each other — just texting. The symbols above their heads showed their emotions. They loved each other, they had a fight, they made up — never once looking at each other!!

    I have a friend whose daughter has been a school teacher for years. She says the minute the kids leave the classroom, they get out their cells, walk side-by-side, texting each other. Will that generation ever fully know how to communicate with another human being? Are they being desensitized to how their words affect an actual human being and not just a face or an icon on their cell? Kind of scary!!

    • This is such an interesting twist, holding the sender responsible. And you’re right … talking on the phone is also quite distracting. I’ve witnessed many a car go through stop signs, etc, when the driver is on the phone. I’m sure you have, too. 😦

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