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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A new study highlights just how big a problem distracted driving has become, especially for the group of people most addicted to their smartphones. "Phone addicts are the new drunk drivers," Zendrive concludes bluntly in its annual distracted driving study.

The big picture: The continued increase in unsafe driving comes despite stricter laws in many states, as well as years of massive ad campaigns from groups ranging from cell phone carriers to orthopedic surgeons.

"They hide in plain sight, blatantly staring at their phones while driving down the road," Zendrive says in the study.

And it's a growing problem. Over just the past year, Zendrive, which analyzes driver behavior for fleets and insurers, said the number of hardcore phone addicts doubled, now accounting for one in 12 drivers.

If the current trend continues, that number will be one in five by 2022.

"I'm sad and concerned," Zendrive CEO Jonathan Matus told Axios. "It's frightening how common distracted driving has become and how as a society and as individuals we are okay with the 'new normal'."

Some sobering stats about "phone addicts" behind the wheel:

  • On any given trip, they physically touch their phones four times more than the average driver.
  • As a result, they spend six times longer watching their screens.
  • Their eyes are off of the road for 28 percent of their time spent on the road.

What they're saying: Just listen to what some of the survey respondents had to say about their own practices.

  • “I wish I was better at not being distracted by wanting to constantly change songs...I do not text and drive, but I like to FaceTime my friends while driving since it makes time go by faster.”

As with other groups of dangerous drivers, many phone addicts believe they aren't a problem, with 93% describing themselves as "safe" or "extremely safe." In the few seconds you look at your phone on the freeway, your car will have traveled hundreds of yards.

"We found that while people are almost universally aware that distracted driving is incredibly dangerous, those same people largely dismiss their own contributions to the problem," Matus said. "Almost all our respondents thought they were safe drivers, but were willing to admit that they use their phones in the car all the time, signaling a cognitive disconnect between knowing the risks and taking action."

Methodology: The data on phone use comes from 4.5 billion miles driven by 1.8 million Zendrive users between November 2018 and January 2019. As for the attitudes, those came from a survey of 500 non-Zendrive customers.

The bottom line: It's a reminder that for all the angst over autonomous vehicle safety, there's vast room to improve upon highly fallible — and increasingly distracted — human driver.

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - World

Over 3,000 detained in protests across Russia demanding Navalny's release

Russian police officers beat protestesters at a rally against of jailing of oppositon leader Alexei Navalny in Moscow on Saturday. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Police in Russia on Saturday arrested more than 3,300 people as protesters nationwide demanded that opposition leader Alexey Navalny be released from jail.

Details: Demonstrations began in the eastern regions of Russia and spread west to more than 60 cities.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Arizona Republicans censure Cindy McCain and GOP governor

Combination images of Cindy McCain and Gov. Doug Ducey. Photo: FilmMagic/FilmMagic for U.S.VETS/Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Arizona Republican Party members voted on Saturday to censure prominent GOP figures Cindy McCain, Gov. Doug Ducey and former Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who've all faced clashes with former President Trump.

Why it matters: Although the resolution is symbolic, this move plus the re-election of the Trump-endorsed Kelli Ward as state GOP chair shows the strong hold the former president has on the party in Arizona, despite President Biden winning the state in the 2020 election.

Updated 7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

  1. Health: Most vulnerable Americans aren't getting enough vaccine information — Fauci says Trump administration's lack of facts on COVID "very likely" cost lives.
  2. Education: Schools face an uphill battle to reopen during the pandemic.
  3. Vaccine: Florida requiring proof of residency to get vaccine — CDC extends interval between vaccine doses for exceptional cases.
  4. World: Hong Kong puts tens of thousands on lockdown as cases surge — Pfizer to supply 40 million vaccine doses to lower-income countries — Brazil begins distributing AstraZeneca vaccine.
  5. Sports: 2021 Tokyo Olympics hang in the balance.
  6. 🎧 Podcast: Carbon Health's CEO on unsticking the vaccine bottleneck.

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