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Texting A Driver Could Lead To Legal Liability, New Jersey Appeals Court Holds

Before you send that next text message, you might want to ask yourself what the person you are texting is up to at the moment. If the recipient of the text is behind the wheel of a moving car, you could be in trouble — at least in New Jersey.

That is the implication of a state appeals court ruling that came down Tuesday. If there is any way to reasonably find out, texters must make sure that the person on the other end of the text message is not driving a vehicle before hitting that “send” button, the court’s majority said.

The ruling came in a lawsuit stemming from a 2009 accident in which David and Linda Kubert each lost a leg when their motorcycle (pictured) was struck by a Chevy truck that swerved across the center line.

The driver of the truck, Kyle Best who was then 18-years-old, was steering with his elbows as he texted with his thumbs, David Kubert recounted to New York's Channel 2 News.

Best pleaded guilty to operating a handheld device while driving — a crime in New Jersey.

But the Kubert’s sued not only Best, but the teenage girl who texted him, Shannon Colonna who was 17 at the time of the accident. Colonna had just sent Best the text message to which he was replying when he lost control of his truck. The Kubert’s have settled their case against Best.

But while the state appeals court upheld a lower court ruling that Colonna could not be held liable for the accident, the majority opinion of the three-judge panel held that a texter “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.”

Colonna contended that she had no idea that Best was driving.

Statistics show that 77 percent of young people believe that texting while driving is safe, even though they also show that teens who text behind the wheel spend 10 percent of their time driving in the wrong lane.

SOURCES: Newark Star-Ledger, CBS 2 New York (2), Texting and Driving Safety


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