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If there is one thing that can turn a pleasant drive sour in an instant it is being pulled over by a traffic officer and receiving a ticket. Even if deep down, we know the cop was right, still, no one is going to think, “This was the best thing that could have happened to me today.”

To the driver, certainly not, but to family members? To the driver’s employer? In our story, the driver’s employer just happens to be his father, who e-mailed:

“Mr. Beaver, few people have nice things to say about highway patrol officers or traffic cops in general because the typical contact that most of us have with them is getting a ticket.

“I want to tell you about a tremendous service that a California Highway Patrol Officer did for my son, Ricky, and in fact, our courier/messenger service company, by pulling him over and giving him a well-deserved citation for the precise behavior I had warned him about over and over again.”

Dad put the phone on speaker and his son told the story of a completely avoidable–and expensive–refusal to obey the law. With their permission, I turned on my digital voice recorder.

But I Wasn’t Speeding!

“I had been on the road for dad’s company for almost a week, personally delivering documents and was in Sacramento when a California Highway Patrol officer pulled me over. I couldn’t figure out why, as I was in a line of cars stopped for a red light and he was next to me. I asked him what I had done.”

The officer would soon be delivering a well-deserved lecture on distracted driving, summarized by my reader’s 17 year-old son:

“That’s right, you were not speeding,” replied the officer, adding, “From what I could see, it appeared that you were doing something far more dangerous, something that exposes anyone on or off the road in the vicinity of where you were driving to a risk of great harm. Can you tell me what it was? Here’s a hint:

“What were you doing right before I pulled you over?”

Ricky did not know, and the officer filled in the blanks: “It appeared to me that you were texting. That is a violation of law for any driver, at any age, as it is a dangerous form of distracted driving. In fact, drivers under the age of 18 in California and most states can’t legally use a cell phone at all unless it is for emergency purposes.”

Politely, the young man denied that he was texting, but admitted to holding the phone in his right hand, which was visible to the officer.

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What If I Challenge the Ticket in Court?

“Mr. Beaver, I am thinking about becoming a lawyer, and I have a question for you. As the officer wrote texting on the ticket–not simply holding the phone--and I was not texting, could this be a defense? I can obtain a print-out from my cellular carrier covering that time which will show no use of the phone.”

I replied, “It is a valid question, and one that an attorney would certainly ask, so my compliments on having a good mind. But there is a much more important issue involved, and I’m sure your father understands what I am getting at.”

Dad immediately jumped into the conversation.

“It doesn’t matter if the officer’s observations weren’t 100% accurate. The fact is that you were holding the phone and that is a violation of California law, if I am not mistaken, right Mr. Beaver?”

He was correct. Dad continued:

“Ricky, you are our only son. We love you. If something happened to you in an accident or you harmed someone because your attention was not focused on driving, we would go out of our minds with grief.

“And we’ve talked about this many times before!” he said with a tone of voice that sounded as if he was close to tears.

“Some of your friends admitted to us that you joke about being exceptionally good at multi-tasking, driving and talking or texting at the same time. But that’s nonsense, Ricky! A computer can multi-task, but not people! Don’t you agree, Mr. Beaver?”

Of course, I agree, and study after study proves that the human brain cannot perform two tasks that require high-level brain function at once, such as safe driving.

“So, Ricky’s dad concluded, “You are not going to challenge the ticket. You are going to court, accept responsibility, and pay the fine from your own earnings. The CHP deserves a big Thank You.”

Every family with a teenage driver cited for violating the cell phone law also needs to thank that officer who wrote them a ticket.

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Dennis Beaver Practices law in Bakersfield and welcomes comments and questions from readers, which may be faxed to (661) 323-7993, or e-mailed to Lagombeaver1@gmail.com. And be sure to visit dennisbeaver.com.

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