Back in 2009, teenager Kyle Best drove his car into a couple on a motorcycle, injuring the man and woman so badly that they each lost a leg. Mr. Best had been texting at the time.
“I thank God that we’re still alive but I think there should be stiffer penalties,” victim Linda Kubert said after the accident, “The cell phone law has to be stronger.”
Now it just might be. According to the American Bar Association, the New Jersey Appeals Court ruled on Tuesday that “a remote texter can be held liable to third parties for injuries caused when the distracted driver has an accident.” In other words, if you’re texting your buddy while you know he’s driving, and he plows over some pedestrians, you could be responsible for those pedestrians’ injuries. In other other words, just don’t text anybody ever again, ever.
Of course, in order to be charged under this law, the court has to be able to prove beyond a doubt that you explicitly knew your friend was reading and responding to your messages while driving. In that spirit, the court tried 17-year-old Shannon Colonna, who’d been texting with Mr. Best moments before he struck and injured Ms. Kubert and her husband, David. The court was unable to prove that Ms. Colonna knew Mr. Best had been driving at the time, so they acquitted her—but made it clear that the case had set a precedent for the future.
“We conclude that 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,” the court reportedly ruled.
Unfortunately, the case did not specify how Snapchat plays into any of this.