Last month, Indiana Injury Blog detailed many of the potential dangers and harms that come with texting and driving. To summarize, Indiana is one of 39 states to ban texting while driving.
Statistics are revealing some facts about texting and driving safety, which are somewhat surprising and counter-intuitive. Mary Allen, Director of the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute has recommended police raise their vigilance this summer as a result of the prevalence of driving while texting since her institute released their alarming study. Their study analyzed driving habits and accident rates and concluded that drivers who text are twenty-three percent more likely to be involved in an accident. In addition, their findings uncovered that adults are actually more likely than teens to be texting behind the wheel. But despite a lower rate, teens tend to suffer more as their driving experience requires the utmost attention, and 16 year-olds happen to have the highest accident rate of any age driver.
Drivers must beware of a false sense of safety while driving. A recent study conducted through A&M University revealed that voice-to-text technology actually provides no less distraction than standard texting methods. The study involved drivers on a track distraction-free, then creating texts using voice-to-text devices, then typing texts. The reaction time nearly doubled in both texting scenarios, regardless of methodology. Researchers described that when using voice-to-text software the participants needed to proofread more carefully and browse through their text to correct unforeseen errors.
Texters behind the wheel lead to an obvious danger to other drivers and expose themselves to legal liability but, unlike ever before, at-home texters may find themselves in court for their irresponsible distractions.
Soon, the New Jersey Appeals Court will be hearing an initially dismissed claim filed against a texter who was not physically behind the wheels of the accident-causing vehicle. New Jersey, like Indiana, also prohibits texting while driving. So when a texting teen driver hit a couple riding a motorcycle, most expected liability to end at the driver. The couple was severely hurt in the accident, both losing a leg. The drivers were able to settle with the teen's insurance for $500,000, but costs still remained. This is when the lawyers for the plaintiffs developed a new methodology to attack the epidemic of texting – sue the "remote" texter for "aiding and abetting", provided she knew her texts were being read and responded to by a driving recipient.
In this case, the texters had exchanged upwards of sixty text messages leading up to the accident. In the opening oral arguments for the plaintiffs, it was argued that the texter knew she was distracting a driver and knew of the dangers of distracted driving. Attorneys for the defense denied any evidence of such knowledge and denied that the texter had insisted on and intended for the driver read her texts while he was driving.