A new study on New Yorkers' driving habits found that 7.4 percent of city drivers use cell phones while operating vehicles, a concerning statistic considering Department of Transportation data noting that 70 percent of pedestrian fatalities are caused by distracted drivers.

The study [pdf], conducted by students at Hunter College, surveyed the driving habits of 2,988 drivers of vehicles at 52 different locations in in the city, finding that 5.9 percent of drivers used a hands-free electronic device, with an additional 7.4 percent seen talking on a hand-held phone or texting. The national average of drivers who use handheld devices is 5 percent

It is illegal to use a handheld device while driving in New York State. "Cell phone use is still phenomenally high, it’s at dangerous levels,” Peter Tuckel, a sociology professor at Hunter College who oversaw the study, told City Lab. “That’s troubling, especially in a state that bans handheld devices."

Student researchers also noted that drivers under the age of 40 were more likely to use a cell phone or other handheld electronic device. This correlates with prior studies [pdf], which have found that younger (and potentially more inexperienced) drivers tend to text and drive more than older drivers.

In New York State, drivers caught texting while operating a vehicle will be hit with a five-point penalty on their license for a first offense. Sometimes the police even enforce it!