This post is for all of you (and me) who have sent text messages to people you knew were driving when you sent the message or you knew would likely read your text while driving.
A New Jersey appellate court has held that a remote texter can be held liable to third parties for injuries caused when the distracted driver has an accident. According to the court, “a person sending text messages has a duty not to text someone who is driving if the texter knows, or has special reason to know, the recipient will view the text while driving.”
This law is currently only in New Jersey, but I expect it to catch on in other states.
Think of all the times and ways you have broken this law. Here are some ways that if this law was in Ohio, I would have broken it:
- A client was circling my office building downtown looking for a parking space. I knew the client was driving when I texted him which parking garage best served my building.
- My wife was meeting me for dinner at a new restaurant. I was already there when she called asking for directions. The noise level in the restaurant made talking on the phone difficult, so she said, “just text me the address.” I texted her the address knowing she was driving.
- My parents were visiting from out of town and texted me, “Traffic jam. Alternate route?” When I texted the alternate route to my house, I knew they were driving.
- I met a friend for a beer after work a few weeks ago. He texted to let me knew he was running a few minutes late. I knew he was driving when I responded “No problem.”
I think this is a good law. Many people don’t like no texting while driving laws, but I think they’re a necessary evil – especially since every other teenager on the road seems to have 1 eye on the road and 1 on her phone.
Matt Austin is a Columbus, Ohio lawyer who owns Austin Legal, LLC, a boutique law firm with offices in central and northeast Ohio that limits its representation to employers dealing with labor, employment, and OSHA matters. Austin Legal’s Concierge Legal Services program is relied upon by companies to remain compliant and competitive. If you have employees, you need Concierge Legal Services. You can call Matt at (614) 285-5342 or email him at Austin@LaborEmploymentOSHA.com.