It seems that almost every other week, there’s a story about a car theft, only to have the thief stall and run away because they didn’t know how to drive a manual transmission. This happens so hilariously frequently that I feel as if car thieves should open up a school for stick shift driving to prevent themselves from getting busted. But that’s neither here nor there. The important thing to take away from all of this is just how few people know how to drive a stick.
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Manuals are dying, we know this. Every journalistic website has beaten this topic to death. The plain and simple fact is that automakers are killing the manual because customers don’t want them. Why don’t they want them? Well, it’s most likely because the majority of the car driving population does not know how to drive one. And, I honestly believe that if someone doesn’t at least know how to drive a manual transmission, they should not have a driver’s license.
Now, I’m not saying everyone must have a manual. Automatic transmissions are great for certain things, and I’m an advocate of the automatic for the daily grind, as riding the clutch all day in stop-and-go traffic is hateful. So owning an automatic isn’t the issue. The issue is with people who only know how to drive an automatic. It’s making them worse drivers.
Understanding how a transmission works, how it shifts through gears to keep the power to the wheels, is essential to understanding how a car works. And if you know how a car works, fundamentally, you have more respect for it and drive it with more care and attention. Nowadays, for most people, especially youths, driving is the last thing they’re paying attention to while behind the wheel. It’s mostly texting, Snapchatting and taking selfies. But that wouldn’t be possible if there was a gear lever in their hand that needed to be shifted around.
The need for responsible driving is gone in today’s young drivers, because they can just slap the lever into D and mindlessly be on their way, listening to Justin Bieber, or whatever they listen to. It’s madness that that level of irresponsibility is allowed while behind the wheel, where lives can be lost if someone isn’t careful enough. And it’s all because when young people are learning to drive, they never learn to drive stick, so the need to respect the vehicle’s mechanics isn’t nearly as present.
I’m not saying that everyone needs to drive a manual or else they don’t respect a car, but they at least need to know how. I’ve been saying for years now that the driving test needs to be revamped completely. One of my revisions would be that every student driver must learn on a manual. Fleets of old beat up Honda Accord manuals should be at every testing facility for teenagers to learn on. This way, they can respect what an automatic does if they choose to drive one after, that it isn’t just a perpetual motion machine that just goes onward when it’s in Drive. And, it’s quite possible that most teens would actually enjoy driving a manual transmission more, and choose to buy a car fitted with one. This would increase manual transmission demand, therefor forcing automakers to give us more, on top of making people better drivers. Win, win.
I don’t know if learning to drive stick would actually help our teens these days, who more respect their smartphone than their two-ton vehicle, which can become a death machine if handled improperly. But it would definitely be a start. The only downside is that more people would have the ability to steal your car.