It's bad enough to get in a crash while fiddling with a cell phone, but a motorist in Richmond had even worse luck Friday. Not only did she rear-end the driver in front of her -- he turned out to be the city's chief of police.

The 58-year-old woman, a Pinole resident, driving about 15 mph with her head down and holding a cell phone, approached a red light behind an unmarked city of Richmond police car on San Pablo Avenue near MacDonald Avenue about 9 a.m. Friday, police Chief Chris Magnus said.

"I was sitting there at the light, and I saw her creeping up behind me. She had her head down, looking at the phone," Magnus said. He had already encountered the woman in the exit of a nearby Target store, where she had been sitting in her car focused on the phone to the point where the he had to honk his horn to get her to move, he said.

The woman's car, a 2006 Honda Element, hit the 2008 Chevy Impala Magnus was driving, causing minor damage to the back of the Impala and the front of the Element, police said. No one was injured.

Like anyone involved in a fender bender, Magnus called the police. The woman told the officers who responded that she was looking down to find her Bluetooth hands-free device and that was why she was distracted.

The woman could not be reached for comment; the Times is not identifying her because she was not cited.

About 5,500 people died in crashes in 2009 because of distracted driving nationwide, and talking or texting on a cell phone is the No. 1 source of driver distraction, according to California's Office of Traffic Safety.

The motorist was not cited because the officers who responded did not see the crash happen, police said.

Magnus did not cite her because he was involved in the incident and didn't think it was appropriate to tell the officers what to do.

The woman went on her way, presumably a sadder but wiser driver.

Contact Janis Mara at 925-952-2671. Follow her at Twitter.com/jmara.