Using a smartphone while driving is dangerous and in many states illegal, but more than one third of smartphone-owning drivers are still breaking the law - and admitting to it.

The 35 percent of respondents who confessed to this distracting behavior were part of a wider 4,000-person survey released today by McKinsey & Company.

When the global consulting firm asked about their smartphone habits, the in-car smartphone users said that 89 percent of the use was for phone calls, and 68 percent was for navigation.

Even more eyes-on-the-road-averting tasks like texting while driving were common among 39 percent of drivers.

Internet, email, social networks, and app distractions were rolled into one category, claiming to be used by 31 percent of respondents.

More in-car distractions to come

The statistics in McKinsey's "Mobility of the Future" study indicate that penalties for using a cell phone while driving aren't working as well as lawmakers might have hoped.

Currently, 33 U.S. states and Washington, D.C. ban text messaging while driving, and 10 states and D.C. ban all handheld cell phone use.

The study emphasises that the 35 percent statistic is just the number of distracted smartphone-using drivers "today," and "the younger generation in particular is willing to pay for in-car connectivity."

Car manufacturers and technology companies are going to give that generation what they want, having just announced advanced infotainment systems for cars and Wi-Fi on the road.

The roadmap to safer roads may lie with self-driving cars like the Google driverless car, proving that as distracting as technology can be, the industry can innovative itself out of its own mess eventually.