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We all know it is a bad idea to fool around with our cell phones while we are driving. One group of researchers at the University of Utah found that drivers on cell phones are more likely to cause an accident than drivers who are drunk. Many of us do it anyway, and often we cause accidents or even deaths.

California, since July of 2008, has been one of five states that ban the use of hand held cell phones while driving. Moreover, in California the ban is one of primary enforcement, meaning that law enforcement officers can pull a driver over simply for the use of the phone.

One might expect that if anyone should be obeying the law in California, it would be law enforcement personnel. And yet, this week we see undercover officers of the federal government involved in a serious accident. These officers somehow managed to not see an enormous highway maintenance truck, at least until they were slamming into it from behind. The driver, an undercover agent of the Bureau of Land Management told investigators that he was talking on his cell phone and simply did not see the truck. His passenger is currently hospitalized with major internal injuries.

So, for the sake of a momentary convenience, the agent’s cell phone use seriously injured his passenger, caused two others to be taken to the hospital, closed down the I-5 southbound for more than an hour, and destroyed a Caltrans maintenance vehicle. Was this phone call important enough to justify all this?

With very few exceptions, no one should be making calls while driving. It’s not just a bad idea, in California it’s against the law. Law enforcement personnel, whether state or federal, should know the law and act as examples to others. More and more drivers seem to be ignoring the law passed just one year ago. For federal employees to refuse to obey California law is unacceptable. Moreover, the officer’s cell-phone caused inattention proved to be reprehensibly dangerous, pure and simple.

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