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Published: Saturday, 8/1/2009

Cell phone secrecy

KEEPING America safe from those who drive while using a cell phone is hard enough. Now we learn that the Bush administration's Transportation Department withheld research from the public that details the growing hazards of such behavior.

It took a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by two consumer groups - the Center for Auto Safety and Public Citizen - to force release of the data. That's not exactly good government.

What Americans learned is that researchers for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated cell phone use by drivers caused 955 fatalities and 240,000 accidents in 2002. Also set aside was a letter prepared for Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta to send to states, warning them that hands-free phones did not eliminate the accident risk.

The information was kept under wraps for fear of angering Congress. The New York Times reported that the former head of the agency said he was warned that the research might stir up lawmakers who wanted the safety agency to gather data but not use it to lobby states.

Legislatures around the country won't act until they get more information on this road danger - the very kind the federal government refused to share with the American people.

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