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Athens Mayor Declares "Don't Text and Drive Day"

We are all tempted to do it. We hear the familiar sound on our cell phone indicating a text message has just come through, and we reach for the phone. We are sitting at a traffic light and think we can send a text while we wait and we reach for the phone. We need to multi-task and forward a few emails on the way to work, so we reach for the phone, STOP!

Texting while driving is not only dangerous, it is illegal in 41 states. In all but 4 of those 41 states, texting while driving is a primary offense, meaning that a driver can be stopped for that offense alone. The consequences of being cited for texting while driving vary from state to state, from nominal fines to a penalty structure similar to what is in place for driving under the influence.

Now there is another reason to refrain from picking that cell phone up: liability for texting while driving may extend to the sender of the text. In a New Jersey case, the victims of a distracted driving accident sued not only the driver who had been texting immediately before hitting the motorcyclists, but also sued his girlfriend who sent him the texts. The Judge dismissed the case against the girlfriend, and the Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal. However, the court stated that liability "could arise if the text sender had a special reason to believe the driver would read the message while behind the wheel."

States are enacting stricter laws against texting while driving. Courts are indicating a willingness to hold anyone involved in texting while driving liable for accidents that occur as a result of the distraction. Even local authorities are doing their part to stop the dangerous practice of texting while driving. In Georgia, Athens-Clarke County Mayor Nancy Denson declared Thursday, September 19, 2013 "Don't Text and Drive Day" in Athens, coordinating the event with the national "It Can Wait" campaign designed to raise awareness regarding the danger of texting and driving. September 19th is the birthday of a teen who died in a texting while driving accident, and for whom Georgia's 2010 law banning texting and driving is named.

So do yourself and everyone a favor, and the next time you reach for that cell phone while driving, STOP!

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