Q. I’ve read that it’s dangerous to use hand-held cell phones when driving, but that it is OK to use hands-free phones in cars because they let you talk and listen without taking attention from the road. After all, most drivers safely talk to passengers when behind the wheel of a moving car — G.M., Houston

A. It’s been found that even hands-free phones in vehicles cause a driver to become overly distracted. Talking with a passenger doesn’t involve the same degree of concentration that a hands-free car phone does. Also, a passenger can help a driver avoid an accident by warning him of, for example, an oncoming vehicle he doesn’t see. 

Q. Now that cars, crossover vehicles and SUVs have become far more fuel-efficient, why hasn’t demand for gasoline gone down in the United States? — C.C., Northbrook, Ill.

A. One reason is because there are far more passenger vehicles on roads than ever. Also, I see many people who squander fuel by roaring away from stop signs and driving too fast, as if gas still cost $1.50 or less per gallon—as it once did. I’d hate to see their gasoline credit card bills at the end of the month. 

Q. I read your article about the Toyota Prius C and have a question. I drive from Long Beach, Calif., to see my father in Las Vegas. On the way back, there’s a large hill that my present car has a hard time making up without losing a lot of speed. Will the Prius C have to crawl up in the truck lane? — E.A., via Internet

A. There should be no problem. But I wonder why your present car has a hard time climbing a hill. Presumably, it’s fairly modern, so it must be in bad shape to give you such trouble with a hill.

Q. Despite the emphasis on fuel economy, it sure doesn’t look as if the horsepower race, like the one in the1960s, is over. Is it? — R.H., Los Angeles

A. Not by a long shot, although some new high-powered cars are over-the-top. For instance,  legendary racer/car builder Carroll Shelby’s Shelby American firm is celebrating its 50th birthday by giving its Shelby 1000 model—based on the Ford Mustang Shelby GT500—a total of 950 horsepower for the street version and a non-street-legal version of the car, the Shelby 1000 S/C, “more than 1,100 horsepower.”  Both versions of the Shelby 1000 have a supercharged, modified Ford 5.4-liter V-8. The production 2012 Shelby GT500 Mustang has a supercharged 5.4-liter V-8 rated at 550 horsepower. Shelby American says it will build a limited number of the Shelby 1000 models. They won’t be cheap. The street version will sticker at $149,995, besides the cost of a Mustang GT500. The 2000 S/C package is expected to cost about $200,000, in addition to the cost of the car.

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