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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

Why companies aren't paying more

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

If companies raised pay high enough, then maybe they wouldn’t complain about labor shortages that have forced them to forgo sales. But there seems to be a limit to how much a company is willing to pay, despite what seems like a clear opportunity to maximize the top line.

Why it matters: Companies have been scrambling to staff up amid a rapid economic recovery. Employers across industries have been raising wages in their efforts to be competitive.

Business travel might be going out of style

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Companies have made it a year and a half mostly without traveling for work — and now more and more of them are considering dramatically reducing business travel to slash costs and cut carbon emissions.

Why it matters: Business travel is a massive part of the global economy — with trillions of dollars and millions of jobs at airlines, hotels and travel agencies hinging on its return.

Local Florida leaders eye ways to take on DeSantis' anti-mask stance

Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

With Florida at the forefront of the nation's COVID surge, local governments across Tampa Bay are wondering if — or how — they can subvert Gov. Ron DeSantis' administration to do something to slow the spread.

Why it matters: A day after Florida broke its record for daily cases, it did the same for the total number of COVID hospitalizations — set way back in July 2020, per the AP.

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