The dangers of texting while driving have been the impetus behind a number of state and local bans that seek to curb the habit.
Distractedly typing away while driving is just as bad as drunk driving, proponents of tough anti-texting laws argue.
Now, a lawyer in New Jersey is making the case that sending texts to a driver isn’t all that different from a bartender giving too many drinks to someone they know is driving.
That means people sending text messages to drivers could be accountable if an accident occurs. And legal experts say that the argument does have some merit, depending on how laws are interpreted.
The outcome of the case, msnbc.com reports, could have a far-reaching impact for drivers and cell phone users.
The crash happened in 2009 after Kyle Best, 19, drifted into oncoming traffic and hit the car of David and Linda Kuber. He was reading a text from Shannon Colonna when the crash occurred, and the Kubers both lost their legs in the accident.
Lawyer Skippy Weinstein filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Kubers, and says Colonna could have prevented the horrific crash by not texting Best while he was driving.
“She was not physically in the vehicle but she was electronically present,” Weinstein told msnbc.com. “She and he were assisting each other in a violation of the law.”
Colonna’s lawyer, Joseph McGlone, is asking Morris County Superior Court Judge David Rand to throw the case out.
From his viewpoint, McGlone argues that Colonna had no way of knowing when Best would read the text.
“The sender of the text has the right to assume the recipient will read it at a safe time,” McGlone told the local Daily Record newspaper.
The case has drawn attention for the novel argument, not to mention the possible consequences for millions of cell phone users. But Weinstein says he isn’t interested in grand-standing.
“The defense … wants to make this into a cause celebre, but this is not complicated,” he said. “A jury may find I’m wrong and thrown me out on my duff. … All I’m saying is don’t (text) while driving, and don’t assist someone else in texting while driving.”