Texting while driving is illegal in North Carolina and in 40 other states. Even if you live in a state where it isn’t totally banned, most people understand that texting while driving is dangerous. If you get into an accident while texting, chances are you will be held liable for injuries caused by your inattention.
But here’s a new wrinkle in the law: In August 2013, a a New Jersey appeals court said that a remote texter (someone not in the car) can be held liable for injuries caused when a distracted driver reading the texts has an accident.
Remote texters can only be held accountable if:
- they send a text to someone they know is driving, AND
- they know that the driver is reading the texts while driving.
As an example, imagine that your friend texts you from the road and say something like: “I’m driving home and it will take me about an hour. Where are you?” If you text the friend back within the hour that you know he or she will be on the road, you could potentially have to pay damages if your friend gets into an accident while reading your text or texting you back.
If these types of lawsuits become more common, we may see cell phone apps that are able to hold back delivering messages until the phone (and therefore the driver) is no longer traveling more than 20 mph.
Until then, there’s always the low-tech solution: Turn off the sound on your phone so you don’t know if a text or message is coming through, and store your phone in the glove box or center console until you arrive safely at your destination.