Beta

×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

NJ Court: Sending a Text Message To a Driver Could Make You Liable For Crash

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the pendulum-swinging-hard dept.

The Courts 628

C0R1D4N writes "A New Jersey Appeals Court has ruled that both sides of a texting conversation which resulted in a car accident could be held liable. The ruling came as part of a case in which the driver of a truck received a text message shortly before striking a motorcycle carrying two passengers. The court ruled that while in this case, the person sending the text wasn't liable, they could be if the circumstances were a little different. '...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.'"

cancel ×

628 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Idiocracy (5, Funny)

shiftless (410350) | about a year ago | (#44698685)

What if I place a phone call to someone I know, or "have a special reason to know", may be driving?

Idiocracy was supposed to be a comedy, not a how to instruction manual.

Re:Idiocracy (5, Insightful)

DarkOx (621550) | about a year ago | (#44698713)

What if a radio DJ makes a shocking announcement and he knows or has special reason to know someone may be listing while driving?

This one seems nutty to me; making anyone responsible for the safe operation of a car beyond the one operating it seems kinda foolish.

Re:Idiocracy (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | about a year ago | (#44698831)

The radio station I listen to has kind of sort of begun to acknowledge people listen to morning radio mostly during commute. Instead of "call in at 555-5555 or text to #" it's now "call in at 555-555 or text if you're not moving to #"

The end result is probably nothing more than the DJs feeling like they can sleep a little better at night.

Re:Idiocracy (5, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year ago | (#44698843)

I think that the punchline is " if the texter knows, or has special reason to know, the recipient will view the text while driving."

Merely sending a text message, or making a phone call, or being a talkative passenger, or something, is not a problem. Only doing so with knowledge (how this would be obtained is unclear, and the situation is hypothetical) that the driver will be distracted by your action is seen as problematic.

It's irrelevant; because the hypothetical proposes a fairly stiff standard of evidence to meet (and would only kick in when both that standard is met and a text-reading driver does something unpleasant enough to get the courts involved); but it's actually not dissimilar from reasoning in other contexts:

Bringing a delicious peanut butter sandwich to work for lunch is totally innocuous. Doing so with the full knowledge that Bob from Accounting is lethally allergic is...not. Few scenarios are as clear cut as 'prior knowledge of atypical and dangerous allergy'; but it's hardly unreasonable to expect that certain people will be specially vulnerable to certain agents, and that people who know that and expose them anyway should be treated as though they intended the consequences that they knew about, rather than the consequences that would have resulted for any random normal person.

Re:Idiocracy (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44699039)

Bringing a delicious peanut butter sandwich to work for lunch is totally innocuous. Doing so with the full knowledge that Bob from Accounting is lethally allergic is...not.

I can't be held accountable if Bob steals my lunch, then eats it.

Re:Idiocracy (3, Funny)

Mordok-DestroyerOfWo (1000167) | about a year ago | (#44699057)

Bringing a delicious peanut butter sandwich to work for lunch is totally innocuous. Doing so with the full knowledge that Bob from Accounting is lethally allergic is...not.

I can't be held accountable if Bob steals my lunch, then eats it.

Apparently you can in Joisey

Re:Idiocracy (2)

Imagix (695350) | about a year ago | (#44699127)

Some allergies are apparently serious enough that putting your sandwich on the counter, and then later Bob touching that area causes a reaction.

Re:Idiocracy (1)

Teresita (982888) | about a year ago | (#44698725)

Make it illegal to send a text if you know the recipient is driving. Now you gotta prove to a court of law that the sender knew. But it's easy to prove the driver was texting by checking phone records. But no, we don't want to do that, because it would imply making it illegal to text while driving.

Re:Idiocracy (2)

TemporalBeing (803363) | about a year ago | (#44698759)

Make it illegal to send a text if you know the recipient is driving. Now you gotta prove to a court of law that the sender knew. But it's easy to prove the driver was texting by checking phone records. But no, we don't want to do that, because it would imply making it illegal to text while driving.

Many places have already made it illegal to text while driving. They are just existing the liability to the other party of the conversation when that party has knowingly participated in the illegal texting, at the very least as an accessory to the crime itself.

Re:Idiocracy (3, Insightful)

meerling (1487879) | about a year ago | (#44698919)

Despite the fact that the sender has no real way of knowing if the recipient is operating a vehicle unless they are in the vehicle with them, and on top of that, the text is a non-time sensitive communication like a physical letter. The only reason to read it the moment you get it is because you want to, otherwise you just wait until it's convenient, nobody is in any way forcing you to read it now.

As to the morons in NJ, they said "...know, the recipient will view the text while driving". I guess the statement of "I didn't know he/she was stupid enough to text while driving." suddenly becomes a valid defense.

Re:Idiocracy (1)

mark-t (151149) | about a year ago | (#44699105)

They should probably generalize such prohibition to make it illegal while driving to do *ANYTHING* else which requires the use of either hand, foot, or requires a person to not maintain visual focus on the traffic and road conditions outside of the car for any period longer than perhaps a second or so, unless such activity is part of the normal and safe operation of the vehicle.

I realize that this technically all falls under the prohibition of driving while distracted, but it seems to me like people need something a little more concrete... so why not just explicitly tell them that they aren't allowed to do anything else while driving?

Although I guess that'd also make it illegal to do things like drink coffee while driving, or eat anything... which would make drive-thru's illegal.

Not exactly a huge price to pay, however.... if it meant that people would actually pay more attention to what they were doing while driving.

Re:Idiocracy (2)

Joce640k (829181) | about a year ago | (#44698861)

Its tricky to know somebody's driving when you send a text.

OTOH if you call somebody who's driving you can hear the car, etc., you can usually tell if they're driving or not. Making it illegal not to hang up if you know somebody is driving would make more sense.

Re:Idiocracy (5, Insightful)

SJHillman (1966756) | about a year ago | (#44698871)

One issue I have with text records is that my phone will keep trying to send the message until it gets signal. So I can type and hit Send while still in a convenience store, but it might not actually send until I'm 30 miles down the road to an area with better reception. I would presume that records would show when it was actually sent, not when it was typed out. Given that most areas of the country have spotty reception due to even small topographic features or because people use Sprint, it's a less unlikely scenario than it might seem.

Re:Idiocracy (1)

Dishevel (1105119) | about a year ago | (#44699129)

What if I place a phone call to someone I know, or "have a special reason to know", may be driving?

Idiocracy was supposed to be a comedy, not a how to instruction manual.

Its not really about how you could have known.

This is about money. If the guy on the other end of the phone has more money than the guy driving he will be included as a target to maximize profit.

Fuck Lawyers.

Wouldn't that same logic apply to calling them? (3, Insightful)

studpuppy (624228) | about a year ago | (#44698697)

Would seem that any action that distracts a driver would then be fair game. Called someone you know on their mobile phone? Even the simple act of them having to reach for the phone, or put their bluetooth headset one, or (heck) even press the answer button on their in-dash system could be argued by a lawyer to have caused a distraction. And what's next? Can I be liable simply for waiving at someone from the sidewalk? After all, they may have to turn their head to see who it was that was waiving, and next thing you know.... BLAM! sigh. I sure do love living in NJ at times.

Re:Wouldn't that same logic apply to calling them? (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | about a year ago | (#44698915)

It does seem like we're trying to shift the blame. The driver does not have to read the text or answer the phone. In fact, the driver can easily disable the wireless on their phone while driving or take other steps so that they won't even know someone is trying to reach them. Plenty of people can argue that they NEED to know if someone is calling them, but let's be realistic: of all of the drivers on the road with cell phones, how many actually NEED to know about a text/call the very moment it happens? A majority of drives are only a few miles (less than 20 or 30 minutes) anyway - what information does Joe Average need to expect on a regular basis that can't wait 20 minutes?

Re:Wouldn't that same logic apply to calling them? (5, Insightful)

TheCarp (96830) | about a year ago | (#44699023)

While I disagree that this is that big a deal, especially in light of the evidence that the people who get in accidents with cell phones get in just as many accidents without them (gee what is the common link there?) which seriously makes me think that the whole issue is a matter of not recognizing the inherent self-selection in accident statistics than anything.....

aside from that, this is essentially the same argument I used to make when people would be concerned about me occasionally turning off the ringer on my phone or leaving it somewhere so as not to bother me.

Mom: "What if there was an emergency and your grandmother got hurt?"
Me: "Then you should call the hospital, I am not an ambulance, and have no medical training; I likely can't help."

As if me not knowing the very moment someone died or was seriously injured was somehow important. Yes I may only find out hours later. Yes I may miss the opportunity to see them alive one more time.... no I don' lose any sleep over it.

Re:Wouldn't that same logic apply to calling them? (3, Insightful)

ZombieBraintrust (1685608) | about a year ago | (#44698917)

It would apply. If your running a trucking company then you will have procedures for calling your truckers. If those procedures don't involve hands free equipment then the trucking company would be liable. The judge just left wiggle room so a different judge can use common sense.

Re:Wouldn't that same logic apply to calling them? (1)

Jmc23 (2353706) | about a year ago | (#44698943)

Do you have reading comprehension problems? It's about whether the person knew the recipient was in an unsafe environment.

Let's say you see your friend crossing the street and a big mac truck bearing down on her. If you holler her name from her 5, forcing her to stop and turn her view away from danger and towards you, then yes, you're an idiot and should be blamed.

I know it's hard for a lot of the whiny babies to understand, but eventually we all have to accept responsability for everything we've played a part in.

Yes, under the basic principles of negligence. (2)

Valdrax (32670) | about a year ago | (#44699111)

Would seem that any action that distracts a driver would then be fair game.

Yes. If and only if, your actions were negligent (or worse) in doing so. Negligence requires that your actions be a proximate cause of the harm and that the results be reasonably foreseeable.

In the hypothetical laid out by the judge, if you knew the person (a) was a driving AND (b) had a propensity to recklessly respond to messages, then you in fact would bear some responsibility for calling someone with those properties in spite of the known risk in doing so. That is, unless the cost of not contacting the driver was greater than the cost of the harm times the risk of it occurring or unless some affirmative defense like necessity applies. Etc. Etc.

There's nothing especially controversial from a legal standpoint about the argument he's making -- it's a straightforward application of the criteria for negligence. [wikipedia.org]

Missing the point of text messages... (5, Insightful)

TheNastyInThePasty (2382648) | about a year ago | (#44698705)

The whole point of text messages is to allow for asynchronous communications with someone. Texting someone while they're driving is one of the best times to do it because it means they can get back to you whenever they're done. It's the driver's fault completely for looking at the text. Could you blame Facebook for pushing an update to your phone while you're driving if you looked at it and crashed?

Re:Missing the point of text messages... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44698789)

Could you blame Facebook for pushing an update to your phone while you're driving if you looked at it and crashed?

While I agree with your overall point, this is a lousy argument for it, as the ruling's wording specifically targets senders who know the recipient is driving at the time the message is sent. Facebook couldn't know and therefore couldn't be liable by the reasoning of the ruling.

Re:Missing the point of text messages... (1)

mark-t (151149) | about a year ago | (#44698857)

How, generally speaking, would the sender necessarily know that the recipient is driving at the time? I'm not saying it can't happen, but it would seem to me to be quite far removed from the general rule.

Re:Missing the point of text messages... (1)

bickerdyke (670000) | about a year ago | (#44699115)

and because the sender usually doesn't know, this ruling will have almost no effect at all. No implication has been made on how the sender could, might or should know that the recipient is driving. This is an hypothetical If the sender (somehow) knows the the recipient is driving and knows him well enough to know he's irresponsible enough to read text while driving then he might be held responsible. Which in this case would limit responsibilite to cases where the sender is somehow responsible.

Re:Missing the point of text messages... (1)

Bill Dimm (463823) | about a year ago | (#44698881)

senders who know the recipient is driving at the time...Facebook couldn't know

You greatly underestimate how much data Facebook is collecting about you ;-) (that's a joke, not a claim to inside info on Facebook's operations).

Re:Missing the point of text messages... (3, Insightful)

Reibisch (1261448) | about a year ago | (#44698887)

For someone who agrees with his overall point, it missed your head by a mile or two. Try looking up the definition of 'asynchronous'.

His point is that the sender may know someone is driving but expect that driver to show reasonable judgement before reading or responding. Simply knowing someone is driving shouldn't hold the sender liable. My wife sends me text messages frequently while I'm driving, but that doesn't mean I whip out my phone to check it immediately upon alert.

Re:Missing the point of text messages... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44699043)

Yes, and that's what I agree with. What I was pointing out to him was that his Facebook example wasn't applicable due to the "if the sender knows the recipient is driving" clause and therefore wasn't a good supporting argument.

In short, I didn't miss his point, you missed mine.

Re:Missing the point of text messages... (1)

DigitAl56K (805623) | about a year ago | (#44698825)

I was going to post something similar to what you wrote, then I thought about it further.

Say you're not only texting someone, but you're actively engaged in a bidirectional conversation over SMS, whilst knowing they are driving. E.g. recipient responds to you "I'm driving right now, but what do you need?". If you text them back, then you a) Know they're driving and reading/responding to SMSs, b) Choosing to exacerbate this situation you know is illegal and dangerous.

I fully agree that SMS by design doesn't require an immediate/any response, but if you know someone is putting themselves in danger and you choose to encourage them to continue that behavior, then the argument that you're partly responsible isn't quite as outrageous as it sounds. If my SO replied to me that she was driving during an SMS conversation, for example, would I as a reasonable person choose to continue that conversation?

Re:Missing the point of text messages... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44698835)

The whole point of text messages is to allow for asynchronous communications with someone. Texting someone while they're driving is one of the best times to do it because it means they can get back to you whenever they're done. It's the driver's fault completely for looking at the text. Could you blame Facebook for pushing an update to your phone while you're driving if you looked at it and crashed?

Well, the ruling isn't against texting a driver, it's against texting a driver while knowing that they're driving. It's unlikely that Facebook would have special knowledge that you're driving at the time. Not saying it's a good ruling though. I completely agree with the first part of your comment.

Re:Missing the point of text messages... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44698853)

I don't know, but I'm gonna try!

Re:Missing the point of text messages... (3, Informative)

girlintraining (1395911) | about a year ago | (#44698923)

'...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.'"

Texting someone while they're driving is one of the best times to do it because it means they can get back to you whenever they're done. It's the driver's fault completely for looking at the text.

The law doesn't look at this that way, and the judge is basing his opinion squarely within long-standing legal precident. However you want to classify the behavior, the judge still has a strongly defensible position, legally.

Let's say that you're robbing a store after hours and you know your friend brought a gun. You didn't though, for whatever reason. During the robbery, a security guard shows up. He shoots at you and your friend -- your friend shoots back, killing the guard. You are liable for his death. Yet you weren't armed and in fact, were only shot at. The courts reason that because you had knowledge of the gun ahead of time, you could reasonably foresee its use, and by not stopping your friend you were complicit in allowing it to happen. Say hello to thirty years. Look up felony manslaughter for a more detailed description. Your mere knowledge of that gun is what turned simple robbery into felony manslaughter. If you hadn't known, you wouldn't be ordinarily liable in most jurisdictions.

The law is quite clear on this point: If you have knowledge of illegal activity, regardless of your own intent, etc. and fail to act you're just as guilty as the person who did it. In fact, if the other person has diminished capacity, or extenuating circumstances, you could even face a harsher penalty than they will -- simply by knowing what's going on! You weren't involved at all, but you're the one heading to the slammer.

Yes, this is "just" a cell phone, but legally, it's no different than it being "just" a beer. If you let someone drive home drunk, and they kill someone, there's some guys in blue uniforms outside that want to talk to you. This judge is saying a cell phone is no different, as a legal instrument.

And he's right.

Re:Missing the point of text messages... (1)

Jmc23 (2353706) | about a year ago | (#44698973)

You need to get out and meet some humans if you think texting someone while driving is the best time. Patience doesn't come installed by default.

Re:Missing the point of text messages... (2)

SJHillman (1966756) | about a year ago | (#44698981)

Other scenarios that are no more stupid than texting-a-driver-is-illegal.
1) A text makes someone not pull out on time. The texter now owes child support.
2) A text causes someone to forget to clarify no mayo on their double bacon burger. The texter must now pay for liposuction.
3) A text distracts someone from their last minute bid on eBay. Texter must now provide that limited edition, gold plated John Lennon semen.
4) A text distracts an AC for precious seconds, making their First Post the fifth or sixth one down. Ok, this one would have no noticeable effect.

Facebook Status: Driving (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44699053)

I just changed my Facebook status to "Driving. Don't text me, or call me, or carrier pigeon me, or think of me (making my ears burn) or I'll crash into something and you will be liable."

Information for the hard of thinking judiciary (5, Insightful)

TechyImmigrant (175943) | about a year ago | (#44698707)

You send a text because you know someone is driving, so they can pick it up later rather than answering a voice call.

Re:Information for the hard of thinking judiciary (1)

C0R1D4N (970153) | about a year ago | (#44698781)

A bit more info, our state supreme court is pretty awful and was one of the major issues in our 09 gubernatorial debate. Not that anything much was actually done about it. The idea though is if one of the texts is "I am driving" and you keep replying you are liable. It is still an awful ruling but at least they dont expect you to have ESP

Re:Information for the hard of thinking judiciary (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | about a year ago | (#44699019)

So, texting should require and tags? How do you know when someone is done driving? Can you text them again 5 minutes later? 20 minutes? Are you liable for any texts you send them until they send a "I am not driving" text?. In theory they don't expect you to have ESP, but in practice...

Re:Information for the hard of thinking judiciary (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44698785)

Don't try to inject common sense into any opportunity for our government to continue its march towards a nanny state.

Re:Information for the hard of thinking judiciary (1)

TemporalBeing (803363) | about a year ago | (#44698795)

You send a text because you know someone is driving, so they can pick it up later rather than answering a voice call.

It's probably more for when the driver responds and the sender responds back in those situations. Thereby they know the driver is actually driving and continued the texting.

y duznt he like me? (1)

themushroom (197365) | about a year ago | (#44698797)

Teenage girls who freak out if a boy doesn't reply in 20 seconds aside, of course.

Re:Information for the hard of thinking judiciary (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44698851)

You send a text because you know someone is driving, so they can pick it up later rather than answering a voice call.

Or if someone receives a call, they can let it roll-over to voice mail, perhaps?

Driving these days is like driving with a road full of drunk drivers - all because of cell phones.

Re:Information for the hard of thinking judiciary (2)

mark-t (151149) | about a year ago | (#44698911)

actually, I prefer getting voice calls while driving to text messages, because I can't respond to the latter while driving, while my car has bluetooth, so I can answer an incoming call effectively hands-free with just a single button press, which is located on the steering column.

Re:Information for the hard of thinking judiciary (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44698991)

Exactly. This is a ridiculous ruling. Even if I knew someone was driving, don't I have an expectation that they won't pick up the text message until it is safe to do so? Besides, phones now days can read your texts to you. How do I know an app to do that isn't being used?

Realistically... (1)

barlevg (2111272) | about a year ago | (#44698711)

There will likely never be a situation where the non-driving texter can be held responsible. Burden of proof will always be on the plaintiff, and proving that the non-driver knew that the driver would read his or her texts while driving will almost always be a legal impossibility. And, in that case, this makes about as much sense as holding a passenger in the car liable if they were being purposefully distracting or disruptive (IMO: perfectly valid).

Re:Realistically... (1)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | about a year ago | (#44698777)

There will likely never be a situation where the non-driving texter can be held responsible. Burden of proof will always be on the plaintiff, and proving that the non-driver knew that the driver would read his or her texts while driving will almost always be a legal impossibility. And, in that case, this makes about as much sense as holding a passenger in the car liable if they were being purposefully distracting or disruptive (IMO: perfectly valid).

I would think companies may be the most at risk for being held liable. Not that is anything new since they usually are liable for employee actions while working anyway. IANAL, but I see this could mean that if they text someone going home from work and they get into an accident they may be held liable; or even if tehy have written policies against texting while driving if they send a text they could not point to the policy as a possible defense. I would imagine it would be harder to hold a family member or close friend liable.

Re:Realistically... (1)

studpuppy (624228) | about a year ago | (#44698793)

i dunno.

World is full of stupid people. Easy to imagine someone on the witness stand saying "We kept telling Ed not to text-and-drive. It's such a shame that he didn't want to wait until he stopped to read my text message to pick up milk."

Re:Realistically... (4, Insightful)

0123456 (636235) | about a year ago | (#44698899)

World is full of stupid people.

Unfortunately, many of them get to make laws.

Re:Realistically... (1)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | about a year ago | (#44698883)

There will likely never be a situation where the non-driving texter can be held responsible. Burden of proof will always be on the plaintiff, and proving that the non-driver knew that the driver would read his or her texts while driving will almost always be a legal impossibility. And, in that case, this makes about as much sense as holding a passenger in the car liable if they were being purposefully distracting or disruptive (IMO: perfectly valid).

I think it's a stupid law, but that's just not true. There have been lots of times I got a text message while driving, replied "sry drvn" at a red light, and then got several more messages in the next 60 seconds from the same person. I don't think I've EVER had someone text me while I was behind the wheel and NOT replied with that string, honestly... perhaps a few times when I was having a dialog trying to figure out where someone was, but in that case, the fact that I'm driving is obvious to the other party.

The responsibility is mine, of course, because there's nothing compelling me to actually look at the phone every time it beeps. But finding proof that the person on the other end knew I was driving would be trivially easy.

Re:Realistically... (1)

barlevg (2111272) | about a year ago | (#44699013)

I think it's a stupid law

For the record, it's a legal opinion (one that could be overturned by a higher court, btw).

And my argument isn't that the plaintiff would need to prove he or she knew you were driving but that he or she knew you'd read the text while driving as opposed to while idling at a stop light.

Re:Realistically... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44699017)

Burden of proof will always be on the plaintiff, and proving that the non-driver knew that the driver would read his or her texts while driving will almost always be a legal impossibility.

Really? I could imagine this conversation, which would be pretty damning...

Driver: hit some traffic. 20 more min
Non-driver: k. btw stop and grab some beer on your way
Driver: np. where?
Non-driver: store on 35th & oak is good
Driver: little fender bender, gonna be late

Re:Realistically... (1)

Jmc23 (2353706) | about a year ago | (#44699051)

a:busy?

b:Just driving to work.

a:but you have time for me right?

b:always

a:blah blah blah blah

b: blah blah {crash}

Re:Realistically... (1)

bws111 (1216812) | about a year ago | (#44699087)

Not so. As an example, I know someone who was rear-ended by a Verizon truck. The driver of the truck was checking texts from his dispatcher. Why was he doing that while driving? Per his explanation, it counted against them if they did not acknowledge an instruction in a certain amount of time. Now, Verizon settled this case quickly, but I can imagine if it were more serious it would have gone to court. And I can absolutely see Verizon being held responsible for putting the employee in a position like that.

Telepathy (4, Funny)

Freshly Exhumed (105597) | about a year ago | (#44698715)

Thank goodness that our telepathic abilities are so capable that we can all tell from any distance that the other person is driving.

Re:Telepathy (4, Funny)

KarlIsNotMyName (1529477) | about a year ago | (#44698941)

Unfortunately we can never use our telepathic abilities, because that just might interefere with someone who is driving.

Re:Telepathy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44699123)

I think it would become illegal using telepathic abilities quicker because the telecom companies don't want to loose business than that it would become illegal because of danger of drivers.

Asynchronous ? (1)

kevinbr (689680) | about a year ago | (#44698727)

Unlike a phone call, a text message has the expectation to be read when the receiver chooses. I send text messages to people I know are driving so the message is there when they stop.

Re:Asynchronous ? (0)

Jmc23 (2353706) | about a year ago | (#44699083)

Ah, you aim for the T-bone or mild fenderbender result instead. Always a good choice.

No wonder... (1)

seinman (463076) | about a year ago | (#44698729)

No wonder everybody hates New Jersey.

Re:No wonder... (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about a year ago | (#44698809)

No wonder everybody hates New Jersey.

Oh, stop exaggerating; everyone does not hate New Jersey.

I, for one, love the incessant comic relief they provide the rest of the nation (save, perhaps, Florida).

Re:No wonder... (1)

Rude Turnip (49495) | about a year ago | (#44699029)

Only in the sense that bigots get relief from making fun of minorities. Otherwise, as someone from NJ, this is some high-level bullshit that should be mocked.

duh (1)

mjr167 (2477430) | about a year ago | (#44698737)

It's clearly not the fault of the driver for answering the text while driving... Isn't the point of text messaging that you can send it and they can read when convinenent?

Re:duh (0)

Joce640k (829181) | about a year ago | (#44698929)

they can read when convinenent?

You're completely out of touch with everybody under the age of 25.

Proof (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44698741)

Good luck proving that someone knew they were texting a driver.

mandatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44698749)

Are you just driving, or can i send you an SMS ?

Seriously? (3, Insightful)

Murdoch5 (1563847) | about a year ago | (#44698767)

That is one of the worst ideas I've ever heard. It's up to the driver to not check his or her phone well driving, thats it. It doesn't matter if people are texting you, calling you or even trying to IM you, just don't pick up the phone. This is another example of the pass the buck system of law making. Lets not make any one person responsible for being irresponsible and immature, lets make everyone deal with the fact no one has grown up.

Re:Seriously? (1)

Jmc23 (2353706) | about a year ago | (#44699119)

...lets make everyone deal with the fact no one has grown up.

You say that like it's a bad thing! Probably a USian fearful someone will take away his precious freedom to act like a child :)

Bulletin boards (1)

Known Nutter (988758) | about a year ago | (#44698773)

Wouldn't this same logic apply to the thousands of roadside bulletin boards (advertisements) along New Jersey roadways? Some of which are getting extremely out of hand and distracting with full color animated displays...

Re:Bulletin boards (2)

Whorhay (1319089) | about a year ago | (#44698879)

This is exactly what I was thinking of.

There are always distractions when you are driving. It is up to each driver to focus on the task of driving their vehicle. If the driver decides to prioritize something else like answering a phone, texting, reading a book, watching a movie, adjusting the stereo, or any one of another million possibilities it is up to them to do so in a safe manner.

While they're at it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44698775)

Why not make parents eternally responsible for the actions of their offspring, since everything their children do wrong would never have happened if they had never been born? Is NJ trying to legislate personal accountability out of existence?

Sue the wireless provider (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44698779)

The court ruled that while in this case, the person sending the text wasn't liable, they could be if the circumstances were a little different. '...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.'"

There is no real way for an individual to know if the receiver is driving.

But the cell provider knows - it has GPS data or data of towers being used. Meaning as the person is moving they'd be using different towers.

So, it's up to the cell provider to block texts going people in a moving vehicle.

So, the cell providers are liable and therefore, should be sued for the accident because it's their fault.

I think everyone involved deserves at least a million dollars.

Not to mention social networking. (1)

Dzimas (547818) | about a year ago | (#44698787)

By this logic, you could also be held responsible for an accident after emailing, tweeting or mentioning someone in a Facebook status while they're driving. Come to think of it, phoning someone while they're driving (even if they have handsfree) could be construed as deliberate distraction, as could texting a passenger with important news that might interest the driver. This is bonkers; you can't control how and when someone else uses their phone, nor should you be responsible for their poor choices while driving.

More thought crime? I'm shocked! *NOT* (1)

s.petry (762400) | about a year ago | (#44698845)

For this to happen, we would need to change our whole judicial view point which requires intent (mens rea). Either that, or negligence needs to become so broad that everyone is a criminal all the time. Negligence requires a common sense factor that you knew ahead of time that something could happen. Yelling "Fire" is a great example of the application in a sane system. Unfortunately we have not been sane for quite some time.

Oh, and I guess FCC emergency broadcasts that hit your phone like the recent CA Amber alert would be exempt because those come from "approved" sources.. and you citizen are anything but approved.

Quoting my favorite Philosopher, Socrates: "Justice can not be gained by an unjust system. The two ideas contradict each other."

Does this mean (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44698863)

Does this mean that liquor companies/distributors/salespeople/bar tenders will now get in trouble if they sell alcoholic beverages to someone that might drive while under the influence of this alcohol?

(In most state, the driver is not legally allowed to view texts sent to him. It's the drivers fault for reading the text/drinking the alcohol.)

attempted murder (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44698873)

T-Mobile (my provider) just sent me a free ads text message while I was driving, can I sue them for attempting my murder?

April 1st (4, Insightful)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about a year ago | (#44698885)

Is it just me, or are things getting to the point where nary a day goes by without some headline causing us to check and make sure it's not April Fool's?

I swear, I've never seen policies as ridiculous as what's coming out nowadays. Even Caligula would balk at some of this shite.

Bigger picture (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44698895)

Being in New Jersey can make you liable for being in New Jersey

Simple solution...textsecure (1)

TheCarp (96830) | about a year ago | (#44698901)

I use textsecure on my phone, and I have now and will continue to maintain that texting CAN be done safely while driving, and that most of the problem with it is based on strawman arguments based on how long a person COULD spend or how long average people spend staring at the phone rather than watching the road.

In no way, of course, would I say that all drivers who text do so safely or even that the majority do, just that nobody has yet shown that it has to be unsafe, or even that it is a significant issue that rises so far above the background as to be worth solving.

That said.... two things stopped me from texting. The first was getting a smart phone....boy are touch screens hard to use without looking at them! However, I have a droid2, which has a physical keypad, basically requires two hands to use.

So this is where textsecure comes in. To read a text message, I have to decrypt my text messages. That means entering a password which requires special chars and capitals, which makes typing it a bit cumbersome. Putting in my password while driving is hard enough that I gave up shortly after setting it up.

Re:Simple solution...textsecure (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44698993)

No offense, but whatever happened to simple self-control?

I tell people that I will not answer my phone while driving, text or voice. Period.

If I absolutely need to send a text or make a call, I ... wait for it! ... pull over somewhere to do it.

Next will be liability for not sending a text (5, Funny)

c0d3g33k (102699) | about a year ago | (#44698909)

Driver: "Yo, dude, I'm headed your way. In my car. Driving it myself. Alone. Tell me where you're at so I can pick you up".
Non-driver: I'd better not send a response since I know my friend is driving and sending a text might be a distraction.

Driver sends multiple texts to non-driver:

Driver: "C'mon man, answer me!"
Driver: "Why don't you ANSWER!!!?"
Driver: "WTF!!!! I will spam u with texts until you tell me where you are!!!".
Driver: "U R M8king me crzy!!! Answer!!!".
Driver: Runs over child at school crossing

Lawyer to non-driver: "Why didn't you respond? You clearly knew Driver would continue to text while driving until you responded. If only you had responded, the driver would have put down the phone and driven safely to your location. You are responsible for the accident because you did not take sufficient measures to ensure the driver would stop texting!"

Non-driver: "FML."

Don't worry about it. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44698925)

Don't worry. I'm sure that any ignorance in the judicial branch will be swiftly rectified by the legislative branch. Right?

With this line of reasoning... (5, Interesting)

chocho99 (552877) | about a year ago | (#44698931)

...why not make the phone companies liable for transmitting the text to you while you are in a moving car. It's not like they don't already know where you are at all times.

So if I send a text saying (2)

phorm (591458) | about a year ago | (#44698937)

So if I send a text saying

"Call me when you get to [destination]" or "Call me when you're not driving"

what's my liability there?

Everyone you love could go to JAIL! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44698953)

It wouldn't be unheard of for me to be on a text group with 4 friends where we are all calling each other gay (not that there is anything wrong with that), then to have my wife text and ask if I have left work yet, and me say yes I'm driving to the store now brb. She'll text back with ok get A,B,C... and then for me to tell my friends I'm driving to get them tampons at the store. They keep texting in the group thread with each other. Mean while I'm only texting at red lights, but I happen to drive into bus full of nuns and kids and puppies while looking at a provocative billboard. Now everyone I care about goes to jail?

a bunch of malarky (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44698955)

"Two words Mr. President, plausible deniability" - Independence day

Plead the fifth on this nonsense. At what point did we decide that liability through transitivity is a good idea. The implications for such a law are unbelievable and the slippery slope thereafter would be a floodgate for frivolous law suits galore. Right up there with 'the devil made me do it'.

judge snookie? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44698959)

I live in Iowa and will never visit New Jersey having seen who lives there from what I believe to be the most accurate documentary of common NJ life. This judge's statement is no surprise at all. NJ residents are kind of dumb.

Simple Math (3, Insightful)

imatter (2749965) | about a year ago | (#44698961)

The more people that are liable the more lawyers you need to defend them.

It's New Jersey (1)

oldhack (1037484) | about a year ago | (#44698983)

It's not just teen guidos/guidettes clowning on tv, it's the whole state.

This is a joke right!!!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44698995)

I hope it is... please let it be a joke....

Well, that escalated quickly. (2)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about a year ago | (#44699007)

If I'm going to do the time, might as well do the crime...

If my text messages sent to a driver may cause me to be liable for the crash, then I guess I'll just have to hack the car's Android API and drive it remotely while they answer my text messages.

Nonsense (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44699011)

The person sending it has no way of knowing what the recepient is doing, and the recepient is responsible for his/her own actions. Either have the common sense to keep the phone turned off, or at least to not answer it.

Delayed Messages (1)

UltraZelda64 (2309504) | about a year ago | (#44699033)

So if I send a message at 2:15 PM, and the recipient has his or her phone off for a while, but then has the brilliant idea to turn it back on at 3:30 PM while driving on the highway and starts using the phone and reads the message, then I'm at fault for the idiot's unsafe driving behavior a full hour and fifteen minutes before it happened? Just the idea of this is beyond fucked up. Here's an idea: Nail the idiots that drive with questionable habits. Not the people who not only aren't with them, but may not even know what they're even doing at a specific point in time to begin with.

Re:Delayed Messages (3, Informative)

SJHillman (1966756) | about a year ago | (#44699089)

The summary is about half the length of your post, and yet still answers every question you have. The texter is only liable if they are told or reason to know the text will be viewed specifically while driving.

Its easy to forget (1)

Maudib (223520) | about a year ago | (#44699035)

That most judges are also lawyers.

So the are just as fucked in the head and share the same vested interest in destroying life for the rest of us as do normal lawyers.

So... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44699049)

The recipient of a gunshot would could be held liable for their own harm due to their knowledge that a bullet would harm/kill them. Extrapolation is fun.

In other news, traffic reporters held liable... (2)

Nadaka (224565) | about a year ago | (#44699061)

In other news, traffic reporters held liable for distracting drivers on busy roads.

Obiter dictum (1)

sanchom (1681398) | about a year ago | (#44699067)

It's not binding precedent.

Opportunity is Knocking (1)

bigwheel (2238516) | about a year ago | (#44699073)

Here's you chance to write an app that postpones texts until the GPS says you've stopped for more than a couple minutes. Implementation details are left as an exercise to the reader.

I totally like that! (1)

MarkvW (1037596) | about a year ago | (#44699093)

If you know the guy's driving and you purposefully distract him and accident is caused as a result . . . you ought to have to share the burden of paying for the harm you caused along with the driver.

Lawyers will love it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44699099)

The standard first sentence of each text message will become: "I know you're not driving."

Shock jocks and passengers (1)

BetaDays (2355424) | about a year ago | (#44699101)

So will the law extend to radio stations with shock jocks or passengers in the car? Or even better yet phone calls?
Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?
or Connect with...

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>