DISTRACTED DRIVING: Text senders may be held liable in NJ - KMSP-TV

DISTRACTED DRIVING: Text senders may be held liable in NJ

Posted: Updated:

In New Jersey, a harmless text message reminding someone to pick up a gallon of milk on the way home could get the person who sent it in serious trouble if the driver crashes.

On Tuesday, three appeals court judges in New Jersey ruled that the sender of a text message could be held liable for accidents if they know the person they're texting is driving. Since one in four crashes in Minnesota are caused by distracted drivers, and some are wondering whether New Jersey might be onto something.

Legislative liaisons, state troopers and drivers say texting and driving is a lot like speeding -- it's one of those things drivers keep doing regardless of how strict the penalty is. That is an unfortunate reality New Jersey's recent court ruling hopes to challenge.

"I have a child and the last thing I want to do is get into an accident because somebody was texting," Don Reyes told FOX 9 News.

Most people, parents or not, agree with him. Yet, texting and driving remains a serious problem.

"We'll see people texting and then, of course, they see us and they jump and put it down," State Trooper Azzahya Williams told FOX 9 News. "Then suddenly, two hands are on the wheel."

The Department of Public Safety reports distraction is a factor in about 70 deaths and more than 8,000 injuries in Minnesota each year.

"If I'm driving down, say, 94, I'll see it probably once a minute," Williams said. "Someone's looking down at their cell phone."

It's estimated that more than 171 billion texts are sent each month, and there's no doubt some of those are sent by people who are behind the wheel even though it is a misdemeanor in Minnesota.

"We've got laws for speeding and people still speed," Williams acknowledged. "I don't think, if it was any more harsh or any higher, that people wouldn't still do it."

That's why the New Jersey Court ruling hopes to change a different kind of behavior -- but Nancy Johnson says it'll still be tough to enforce.

"It wouldn't be that easy to prosecute because you'd have to prove that the person knew [the recipient was] driving and expected a response," Johnson explained.

Others balked at the idea of holding text senders accountable for accidents they indirectly caused.

"No! My God!" Laura Rudd exclaimed. "We all make choices in life. That person driving needs to be the responsible party. They get the choice of whether they answer that text or don't."

"How would [the sender] know that they're driving at all?" Reyes asked.

The fine for texting and driving is about $170, but that's nothing compared to injuries, damage and death that could result from distracted driving.

Powered by WorldNow

11358 Viking Drive
Eden Prairie, MN 55344

Phone: (952) 944-9999
Fax: (952) 942-0455

Didn't find what you were looking for?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Fox Television Stations, Inc. and Worldnow. All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy | New Terms of Service What's new | Ad Choices