In many states, it is illegal to text while driving, including California. But those states all make police exempt from these laws, believing they are adequately trained to use electronic devices.
However, this week, a California Highway Patrol officer rear-ended another car while looking down at his department-issued computer, killing a teenage boy in the back seat.
Weston Sites, 15, died on the scene. The name of the 49-year-old CHP officer has not been released.
The incident took place Tuesday on Interstate 5 near the city of Orland.
Sites was riding in the back seat of a 2013 Hyundai when out of nowhere, the CHP cop slammed into the back with his patrol cruiser.
The officer was using his computer, and didn’t realize the traffic in front of him had slowed. He applied his brakes, but it was too late.
Two females in the front seat of the Hyundai were injured, but have since been released from the hospital.
California Highway Patrol Sgt. Tony Odell said:
“[The officer’s] attention was diverted away from the road, looking down at, I believe, his computer. When he looked up, traffic was slowing and coming to a stop. [He] applied his brakes and rear-ended the vehicle that was in front of him, which subsequently got pushed into two other vehicles that were stopped.”
The officer suffered minor injuries, he is a 20 year veteran of the department.
If the investigation finds that the officer was at fault, then the findings will be forwarded to the Glenn County District Attorney’s office, who will then explore any and all possible charges against the officer.
On its website, the California Highway Patrol has a page dedicated to warning drivers against the dangers of using computer devices while driving, stating that a first offense can result in a $162 fine and that drivers using these devices are 23 times more likely to crash.