A Superior Court judge in Morristown, New Jersey is considering whether or not a woman who knowingly texted her boyfriend, while he was driving, and who ultimately crashed into a couple on a motorcycle, can be held responsible in civil court.
According to the report, the 18 year old driver was "glancing" at texts from his girlfriend when he crossed traffic and hit two motorcyclists. The driver plead guilty to using his cellphone while driving, was fined $775, and has to make speeches about the dangers of texting and driving, which is illegal in the state of New Jersey.
The motorcyclists are suing the driver, but are also seeking to have his girlfriend added to the suit as well. Their attorney told The New York Post:
“If you know somebody is operating a motor vehicle, if you know it is illegal to text and drive because it violates the law, if you know it’s dangerous, if you know all this and knowingly send a text, then a jury should decide.”
The girlfriend's attorney told The Daily Record that it's not fair or reasonable, and that the girlfriend has no way to control when her boyfriend is going to read her messages.
A decision is expected May 25.
Now, I'm not an attorney, I do not play one on this blog, and I know next to nothing about contributory negligence, but there does not appear to be any precedence to this case the way there is to drinking and driving cases, for example.
The laws surrounded distracted driving are also patchwork. They often target specific items, like phones, instead of general principles. Putting on makeup. Reading newspapers. Drinking and eating. Changing radio stations. Focusing on GPS. Looking at expensive cars. Staring at scantily clad humans.
Conversely, new technologies are emerging that allow for different ways to interact with mobile devices. Chief among them, Siri. With Siri, instead of staring and typing, you can do more listening and talking. You can hear SMS and dictate responses. When it works.
All of this raises a lot of questions. Should there be specific laws against texting, or should there be more general laws against distracted driving? If there are always against texting, should new interfaces like Siri be exempt? Is having a conversation on the phone, or with Siri, different than having a conversation with a passenger who could, theoretically serve as a second set of eyes on the road?
And if something like texting while driving is illegal, and someone knows you're driving and keeps texting you, should they bear some of the responsibility if an accident occurs?
Source: The New York Post