Several years back, when distracted driving began worsening into an even-greater problem, there was lots of thought around learning to drive stick shifts to make people better drivers, and parents touting manual transmission as the key to keeping teens focused on the road.
But is a manual transmission just another distraction for already distracted teens?
I’ve shared that I probably fall within the first generation of teen drivers to have phones with texting capabilities, so texting distraction was low when I learned to drive.
My experience with stick shifts includes operating a riding lawnmower in the Key Peninsula boondocks, plus a few rounds with an aging red Mazda in the loading zone of a deserted grocery store parking lot. Let’s just say neither of those experiences ended with me actually making it onto a roadway with actual traffic. And of the two, the lawnmower had the better chance.
Building the case for manual transmission lessons. Learning on a stick shift creates a driver that’s more knowledgeable and in tune with a car, so that driving is the first priority over texting, Snapchatting, or posting status updates.
Does an automatic transmission enable more focus? Learning on an automatic removes the complication of shifting gears, so a beginning driver can focus on learning to scan, accelerate, brake, merge, and execute all the other essentials without having to think about the car’s mechanical hems and haws.
The current generation is different. My dad learned to drive in a car with no floorboards and had to build the manual transmission before learning to drive it. These days? Any automatic will do. It’s likely there’s not a manual transmission in the household, and mom or dad may not have the skills to give stick-shift lessons.
Does your teen know how to drive a car with a manual transmission?