Distracted driving dangers, up close

Cell phoning while driving is the best-known behavior categorized as distracted driving, but there are countless other dangerous things people routinely do behind the wheel.

The National Safety Council’s International Symposium on Distracted Driving, Oct. 14-17 in Arlington, Va., examines the problem with participants from the fields of transportation and safety, the auto business, science and government, among others.

“Distracted driving contributes to hundreds of thousands of injuries and deaths each year,” said Janet Froetscher, NSC’s president and CEO. “People who drive while talking on a cell phone, for instance, are four times more likely to be involved in a crash than drivers who aren’t on cell phones.

“This symposium will accelerate critical conversations about how we can most effectively combat distracted driving as a national issue, drawing from a variety of perspectives to save lives,” Froetscher said.

The broad topic of distracted driving often enters legislatures’ debates on bills that seek to prohibit handheld phone use while driving. Behaviors such as applying makeup, reading newspapers, attending to young children and even watching videos are examples of distracting driving. “Will we ban these activities in vehicles as well?” cell phone law opponents often ask.

Sessions include “Understanding the Science of Distracted Driving,” “Legislature and Laws,” “Employer Policies” and “Technology.”

The symposium’s co-sponsor is Nationwide Insurance.

“It is high time to focus public attention on this serious and growing national problem,” said Bill Windsor, associate vice president of safety for Nationwide. “The symposium will yield information that may benefit everyone who drives.”

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