Distracted driving has become more widespread as technology advances, particularly with texting. Of all the ways a driver can be distracted, texting while driving is the most dangerous because it requires visual, manual and cognitive functions to occur simultaneously. Distracted driving caused the injuries of 431,000 in 2014 and killed over 3,000 nationwide.
The high numbers of injuries and fatalities associated with texting while driving is causing a stir to make changes and impose stiffer penalties. Recent court cases suggest that a person who sends a text should be just as liable for a crash as the distracted driver if the sender knew the recipient was driving.
This idea began in New Jersey, a state known for setting legal trends. Its central premise is based upon a 1959 law where the New Jersey court found that a bar owner could be liable for a crash if they had served alcohol to a minor involved in the accident. This later expanded to include hosts for social gatherings.
Now that idea, as it relates to texting, has made its way to a Pennsylvania courtroom regarding another fatal crash involving a distracted driver. This also inspired Pennsylvania’s Governor, Tom Wolf (D) to pass a law that could impose an additional five years in jail for any driver who was texting while driving when involved in a fatal crash.
Liability of the Sender
As the Pennsylvania case moves forward, the suit names not only the individual distracted by the text but also the sender, claiming the sender should have known the recipient was driving. It claims that by knowing the person was driving at the time they sent the text, they contributed to the driver’s distraction and negligence-had it not been for the sender’s text, the accident may not have happened.
The sender doesn’t deny sending the text. His attorney, however, argues he had no way of knowing the driver was actually driving at the time he sent the text. The sender also argues that even if the driver read the message while she was driving, that she is solely responsible because she chose to allow the alleged distraction.
Will this law affect Texans?
The case is set for oral arguments near the end of November. Only time will tell what the outcome of the case will be or if the theory spreads across into other states, including Texas, looking to crack down on texting while driving.