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Phones on council hit list
Sharon Smith, The West Australian Phones on council hit list

The use of phones in cars is a debate that is likely to intensify as research continues to identify it as a major contributor to traffic accidents.

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National Road Safety Council chairman Roger Cook, who was in Perth last week, said the latest research by Monash University showed that talking on the phone, even "hands free", was like driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.08. It also revealed that drivers were 16 times more likely to have an accident while texting.

Mr Cook said the safety council would be actively encouraging drivers to turn off their phones when they got in the car, though he did admit it was going to be a hard sell.

Reducing the use of phones while driving is one of 14 initiatives the council has come up with as part of its push to reduce the national road toll by 50 per cent in the next 10 years.

If successful it will save about 400 lives per year by 2021.

While it appears an ambitious target, Mr Cook said that in the past decade road safety campaigns had contributed towards a 36 per cent drop in the road toll.

And he said that if every driver in Australia drove a car with a five-star crash rating, the road toll would instantly be cut by 20 per cent.

With that in mind the council is urging all government and large fleet owners to only buy cars with a five-star crash rating.

He said that it not only put workers in safer cars but they would also flow into the second-hand market, which would mean that more cars with the maximum crash rating would be on the roads.

"The flow-down effect would be very quick," Mr Cook said.

SHUT-OFF CYLINDERS


Volkswagen, a world leader in small-engine technology, has revealed it will make cylinder shut-off technology available in its new 1.4 TSI engine next year.

While the German car maker is not the first manufacturer to use this technology - Holden and Chrysler employ it in some V8 models and Honda has also fitted it to its V6 Accord - Volkswagen will be the first manufacturer to make it available in a four-cylinder engine.

According to VW, it will reduce the fuel consumption of its already efficient petrol engine by a further 0.4 litres per 100km.

When used in conjunction with its stop/start function, the saving will be increased to 0.6 litres.

The cutting-edge technology will seamlessly shut off two of the four cylinders when the engine is revving between 1400 and 4000rpm and torque is between 25 and 75 Newton metres.

But, according to VW, the greatest benefits will be realised while driving at constant moderate speeds. At 50km/h in third or fourth gear, savings could be as high as 1.0L/100km.

As soon as the driver presses the accelerator pedal sufficiently hard, cylinders two and three will be reactivated.

Sensors that control the system are also capable of detecting the driver's mode of driving so if in peak-hour stop-start traffic or driving in a sporty manner, the shut-off functionality will not be activated.

In Australia the Golf, Jetta and Passat are all available with the 1.4 TSI engine but it appears there are no immediate plans to introduce the technology into any of those models, at least in the short term.

Road safety campaigns had contributed towards a 36 per cent drop in the road toll.