Opinion Web Exclusive

NJ texting, driving case questions legality of texting known driver

David Delgado//The Daily Cougar

David Delgado//The Daily Cougar

In the surprising outcome of an increasingly prevalent national discussion, three New Jersey judges ruled that those who text a person known to be driving might be held just as liable as the driver for any damage that occurs.

CNN reported that the New Jersey State Court of Appeals came about this conclusion after hearing the lawsuit that David and Linda Cubert filed against Kyle Best, 18, and his girlfriend, Shannon Colonna.

The Cuberts were riding their motorcycle along a rural stretch of highway — David taking the wheel, Linda holding his back. In the opposing lane of traffic was Best, driving his pickup truck and reading the text message that Colonna had just sent him.

What happened next is an all-too familiar tale: collision, injury, apology and lawsuit.

However, what makes this case so unique from the rest is the Cuberts’ inclusion of Colonna as a recipient of a suit. By knowingly texting Best when he was behind the wheel, the Cuberts argued that Colonna was equally implicated in the accident.

While the Court didn’t rule texting a known driver as illegal, it certainly expressed a growing sentiment towards implicating all parties involved in texting and driving accidents.

“We conclude that a person sending text messages has a duty not to text somebody who is driving if the texter knows, or has a special reason to know, the recipient will view the text while driving,” the Court of Appeals said in their ruling.

However, the logic behind the Court’s statement implies that it’s absolutely necessary to open a text message upon receiving it. This kind of opinion, especially from a governmental entity, brings light to a much larger national dialogue regarding our approach to today’s technology.

It’s not exactly breaking news that our society’s developed an increasing dependence on technology. According to Business Week, the number of smartphones used around the globe surpassed the 1 billion mark just last year.

However, the key behind keeping our relationship symbiotic is the priority that we, as a people, allow these technologies to have in our lives.

According to the Center for Disease Control, 31 percent of U.S. drivers admit to having sent or read text messages behind the wheel in the 30 days prior to being surveyed.

Today’s technology fosters instantaneous communication, and that’s an amazing thing, but technology’s capabilities were never meant to rewrite the rule book on the importance of our welfare and well-being.

By believing it’s expected for a driver to open a text behind the wheel, maintaining an open stream of access to these technologies has now become something we prioritize over our very lives — or at least keeping ourselves safe behind the wheel.

Senior staff columnist Cara Smith is a communications junior and may be reached at [email protected].

1 Comment

  • Thanks for bringing this issue to light.The New Jersy Court of Appeals must be out of their collective minds! Another encroachment on our civil liberties (to send a text without the risk of losing everything you’ve worked for your entire life) and a ringing endoresement for not being “solely” responsible for your decisions and actions. The legal presumption that just because I send an electronic message to someone while I know they are driving, the recipient of said message is somehow excused from applying common sense and therefore exposing an otherwise innocent person to the consequences of someone elses bad actions, is asinine and in itself irresponsible. The New Jersey Court of Jesters have basically sent a message that it is not your fault if you read a text while driving, it is at least in part, the person that sent it. How counterintuitive is it to make a driver soley responsible for their passengers, as in not wearing a seatbelt or having an open container of alcohol, yet somehow, the person sending a text is an accomplice in your own negligence?! I can see it now, every text will start with a one page legal disclaimer and warning saying what we all know “DON’T TEXT WHILE DRIVING STUPID”.

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