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Texting While Driving: The "New Negligence"

By now, every driver knows that texting while behind the wheel is dangerous. So dangerous, in fact, that getting behind the wheel and texting is 23 times more likely to cause accidents than getting behind the wheel drunk. Since most of us would agree that driving drunk constitutes negligent or reckless behavior, it is no leap then to consider texting while driving negligent or reckless behavior as well.

That is exactly what a court in Massachusetts did when it convicted 18 year old Aaron Deveau of homicide by negligent operation of a motor vehicle. Aaron Deveau had been texting while driving when he hit another car, killing the driver and badly injuring the passenger. The court found the act of texting while driving to be negligent, and Deveau was convicted of vehicular homicide, texting while driving, and negligent operation of a motor vehicle. Although there was some speculation about whether Deveau had erased some of his texts from the time of the accident, the police were still able to gather enough evidence of the texts from cell phone records for the Court to conclude that Deveau had in fact been texting immediately before hitting the victims' car.

While the Deveau case dealt with criminal liability, equating texting while driving with negligent conduct can very easily be used in the civil courts to pursue compensation for people injured or killed by this particularly dangerous form of distracted driving. Once a personal injury attorney establishes that a driver was indeed texting at the time of an accident--either through cell phone records, testimony, or both--then the driver can be shown to have been acting in a negligent or reckless manner. The driver can then be held liable for damages, compensatory and punitive, for any injuries and deaths resulting from an accident that occurred due to the texting.

Put simply, texting while driving is so irresponsible that it is negligence. Also put simply, the cell phone used to text while driving not only enables the driver to be negligent, but it links the driver to his negligent act and therefore to liability for it, by containing or leaving evidence of the texting. Just as blood alcohol levels are used as evidence of intoxication in cases where drivers are charged with driving under the influence, cell phones are now being used as evidence of another form of negligent and reckless driving, texting while driving. Whatever the reason, intoxication or texting, the message is clear: distracted driving is negligent, and will lead to civil and possibly criminal liability.

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