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Can Cars with a Manual Transmission Stick Shift help to Protect our Kids?

Updated on November 28, 2015

Driving a Stick

Typical stick shift, five speed transmission
Typical stick shift, five speed transmission | Source

Shift Manual

One of our local news stations did a story about the increase in parents getting their newly licensed kids vehicles with stick shifts instead of with automatic transmissions. It made me wonder if this kind of subtle change could really help keep these rookie drivers safe. I mean think about it, having to concentrate on when to press in the clutch and shift does take some concentration. We have all seen the penalty for not paying attention, being that guy who stalls his vehicle at an intersection.

I’m sure most of us can recall when we were learning how to drive. No matter what we did those two pedals always seemed to feel a little bit strange. I tried to be as gentle as I could, on the brake, but I couldn’t get the hang of it; evidence of this was my Mom and Dad getting mild cases of whiplash in the passenger’s seat.

I recall having a difficult time getting this heavy machine I was controlling to do what I wanted it to do. To make matters worse there were all of these obstacles in the way that I had to account for; other vehicles, pedestrians, trees, etc. were all things that I had to keep tabs of and an eye on. Mastering the feel of the vehicle was one thing, processing all of the ongoing and changing surroundings was a completely new experience.

Texting While Driving

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Driving Laws

Recently there have been pretty substantial pushes to make driving a safer experience for all of us. Here in California laws have been passed that prohibit cell phone use while driving unless a hands free device was used.

While I applaud the law on principle I do question its overall effectiveness. Sure keeping your hands on the steering wheel will place you in more control of the vehicle, and able to respond to a situation quicker, but what if your mind is just too involved in the call. Just because your hands are not holding the cell phone doesn’t mean that your brain, and attention, is not divided between the call and the road. Even though the law may have some fundamental flaws it really is a good start in keeping our hands free of fussing with our portable electronic devices. Hopefully the emphasis on increasing safety behind the steering wheel continues and doesn't loose its momentum.

It wouldn't surprise me to see more attention given to the distractions that we bring into our vehicles and the ones that are installed by the manufacturers.

Distracted Driving: Texting Phones

That brings me to the primary reason that parents are getting manual transmission vehicles for their children. The theory is that their hands will be too busy steering the vehicle and shifting gears to be texting. It does make sense doesn’t it? For all of us who have driven a stick shift there are a bunch of things going on to get the vehicle to go and stop without stalling the darn thing. New drivers should be dedicating 100% of their attention to the roads and operating the vehicle. Putting them in a vehicle that doesn’t shift gears for them really forces them to devote their attention to the task at hand and not who is going to the party Friday night.

Deep down I wish we could just tell our kids about the dangers of using their cell phones while driving and that would be enough of a deterrent for them to not do it. Reality tells me that they will do it because they will also speed and drive without their seat-belts even though we have told them not to.

With a son getting close to sixteen this story really caught my attention. I have already begun talking to my son about driving when we are in the car together. I try to point out things so he can see potential issues on the roads before he has to make an emergency maneuver. Small things like looking at other drivers’ eyes can help keep you out of a dangerous situation.

Even though he doesn’t have a cell phone (because he doesn’t need one) the day will come when he does own one and I want him to know how dangerous the combination of driving and cell phone use can be. Deep down parents everywhere hope that they have prepared their young adults for these challenges and that they make the right decisions.

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    • profile image

      D Team 5 years ago from Taxachusetts

      I doubt driving a stick vs. automatic is going to deter them from using the cell phone or messing with anything else for that matter. Sounds like nonsense to me.

      .rd

    • profile image

      TipsyJet 5 years ago

      I don't think cell phone use is the real question here, i for one drive a stick and do sometimes talk on my phone when driving. i do use the phone less when driving as compered to when i drove an auto, and no long text unless at a stoplight or something of that nature. however, if safety is the real question then the biggest gain with a stick is the ability to "drive" the car rather then "point" the car. when you drive a stick you can better sense how the car is moving on the road, and say if in icy or snowing conditions you also have an added ability to control the speed at which you are moving, you do not need to hit the brake, (as this is the best way to send the car in a spin on an icy freeway) you can slow the car by slowly using the cars motor to slow down. at the very least, if you drive a stick you will get a few miles to a gallon better, if you are not hot-rodin around town.

    • adjkp25 profile image
      Author

      David 5 years ago from Northern California

      I think it just comes down to the inexperienced drivers having one less thing to think about while driving.

      We have started doing some basic driving things with our 15 year old son like moving the vehicle down our long driveway. I recently allowed him to move the car from one driveway to the other; this was also his first time using the gas pedal. He didn't punch it or anything but the acceleration was less than smooth.

      I'm all for whatever can be done to help make driving easier for the rookie drivers on the roads.

    • profile image

      TipsyJet 5 years ago

      This point does make sense to me, but from my own experience with myself and my peer, my friends (and myself included) who did learn on an auto transmission gained to much confidence to fast and inevitably got into some form of an accident. however, my peers who learned to drive a stick as a first car, although the first week or two was be filled with stalling at stop lights, and poking fun at there inability to drive the car, they did not get into the accidents. i do strongly feel that it forces the key points of driving, both being aware of you own car, but also, because of the two weeks of "tuff love" learning to drive, makes the driver more aware of watching other drivers on the road who may be going through what they themselves went through.

      I do not know how your son may behave behind the wheel, but from my own experience i was a totally different driver when my parents were in the car then when i was driving by myself. as a bit of a gear head, and a beliefe that my life calling was going to be something to do with cars, i would try to push the car as hard as i could, when driving an auto and being a 16 year old boy you feel that all you have to do is "stomp on the long petal" and you will be the cool kid in school, with a stick shift you lose that confidence when the cute girls walking by see you stall two or three times in a row.

      best of luck with you and your son.

    • profile image

      CrazyTrain 5 years ago

      Well, I'm 17 and from Germany. We mostly use cars with a Manual Transmission here and I also learned driving this way. It's not such a big deal as you may think; got my license in january. And you don't stall that often after you got used to your car (I only had problems bc the car from the driving school way way lighter than ours) ;)

    • adjkp25 profile image
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      David 5 years ago from Northern California

      TipsyJet-I agree that young drivers act differently when they are in the vehicle by themselves, I know I did.

      We have already been verbally pointing things out to our son so we can mentally prepare him the best that we can. Thanks for the well wishes, I'm sure we will need them!

    • adjkp25 profile image
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      David 5 years ago from Northern California

      CrazyTrain-Thanks for offering a teenage point of view on this topic.

      Personally I learned on an automatic but I did learn to drive a stick about a year after I got my license. After the typical stalling I got it figured out and now would feel comfortable driving a stick shift.

    • profile image

      Ariana 5 years ago

      Thank you for writing.

      Edit: ALL drivers should be dedicating 100% of their attention to the roads and operating the vehicle.

      If you're not dedicating 100% of your attention to the road and operating a vehicle while driving, then I am equally worried about you as I am about your child.

      There are plenty of so called "experienced drivers" who pay little attention to the road and cause accidents.

      One day in middle school while I was riding my bike across an intersection at a stop sign, a guy was talking on his cell phone while driving and ran into me even after "stopping" (or greatly decreasing speed) at the stop sign. As he began to move forward while I was beginning to cross the path of the car, I stared directly at him, became a deer in the headlights, could not stop, and thought: "He is going to stop, isn't he?" I flew toward the middle of the intersection, had dirt and rocks in my hair and I have a lovely scar on my shoulder to this day. Luckily I always wear my helmet when I ride a bike, even now at age 20, and I didn't suffer any concussions or brain damage.

      Don't think that new drivers are the only people who should be paying 100% of their attention to the road. If anyone believes that they do not have to pay 100% attention to the road because they have been driving 10, 20, 40 years, they are sadly mistaken.

      Sixteen percent of fatal crashes in 2009 involved reports

      of distracted driving.

      Of those drivers involved in fatal crashes who were reportedly distracted, the 30- to 39-year-olds had the highest proportion of cell phone involvement.

      http://www.distraction.gov/research/PDF-Files/Dist...

      Statistics for speeding-related crashes are even more breathtaking. Set a good example, and make sure that your child knows how dangerous it is to speed, both on the freeway and off.

      Speeding-related fatalities in the United States in 2009: 33,808

      http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/2012/tables...

      Thank you for reading.

    • adjkp25 profile image
      Author

      David 5 years ago from Northern California

      Ariana - Thanks for sharing your very scary story and I'm glad you are OK. You are absolutely correct that we need to give all of our attention to the road and not a cell phone, radio or passengers in the vehicle.

    • profile image

      Ariana 5 years ago

      Thank you for acknowledging my comment. I didn't mean to be so extreme, but I'm very passionate about this topic. Last semester in University in my Public Speaking class I did my final speech, the persuasive speech, on "Risky Driving Behaviours." At the end of the speech round, our professor asked each person to make one comment on the content of the speeches. A lot of people mentioned my speech as opposed to the other students' speeches, and said that they never realized how dangerous driving is, and that they were going to drive safely from then on. I hope that they are still driving safely today, some months later.

    • adjkp25 profile image
      Author

      David 5 years ago from Northern California

      Ariana - no need to be concerned about the seriousness of your story. Anyone who has operated a vehicle has seen another driver eating, texting, on their cell phone, etc. It is a very serious problem and the fact that people have lost their lives because of these distractions is very disappointing.

    • profile image

      CrazyTrain 5 years ago

      Just a quick formula that came to my mind recently...

      If you ever were wondering how high your fall would have to be if you want to hit the ground as fast as you hit your steering wheel in a car crash (or some random person hitting your hood), here it is:

      h=height of your fall in meters

      v=your current speed in km/h

      (multiply your speed in mph with 1,6 if your home country refuses to use the metric system :P )

      h=(v*v)/260

      So, if you hit, lets say, a child on its way over the street with 60 km/h, its about the same as if it crashes on your car hood after a free fall of 14m from above.

      Ouch.

      (60*60)/260=~14[m]

      Its only an approximation, not introducing air friction and so on, but you'll get the point ;) )

    • adjkp25 profile image
      Author

      David 5 years ago from Northern California

      CrazyTrain - Way too much math for me to confirm or deny your formula. Can I take the safe way out and say I agree with your ouch comment?

    • profile image

      CrazyTrain 5 years ago

      I find it interesting because you usually don't realize how fast you actually are going...

      This formula is how I kept myself entertained during the theoretical lessons in driving school ;)

      And I'm going to study physics in a few months, so I hope I get the mechanics stuff right!

    • RNMSN profile image

      Barbara Bethard 5 years ago from Tucson, Az

      I have driven a manual since I was a teenager and had my suziki90 motorcycle/if that counts/and I hoped that my teenagers would not learn to drive as quickly on my saturn manual/alas, they loved it as much if not more than I did.

      unfortunately a lawyer friend of ours was correct when he said, your daughter (shes the true gear head in the family) will be fine its your son who will wreck the car.

      She was, he did but they are both fine and we love them so :)

      funny now I am old now haha and have a little ole lady KIA but it still has semi manual so I can play if I want to and both kids still driving manual and loving it!

    • gymnastevan profile image

      gymnastevan 5 years ago

      I have been driving manual since I was 15, and I love it. However, it doesn't stop me from talking on the phone, or sending the occasional text. I do think teaching kids how to drive in a manual, is better than teaching in an auto. it forces them to concentrate on what the car is doing, and not what they are doing.

    • adjkp25 profile image
      Author

      David 5 years ago from Northern California

      RNMSN - I have a son and a daughter so I can appreciate the differences between the two. Our son will be behind the wheel first so we will have to see how that process goes.

    • adjkp25 profile image
      Author

      David 5 years ago from Northern California

      gymnastevan - I think refining their concentration is a big part of this. Anything that can be done to reduce distractions is a good start to me.

    • ktrapp profile image

      Kristin Trapp 5 years ago from Illinois

      My daughter drives a stick shift and I love knowing that she can't text and drive at the same time. If she has to text someone for whatever reason she has no choice but to pull in a parking lot. I taught her at first for many hours in a school parking lot. When she was good there we progressed to going through a neighborhood connected to the school lot. Next, she "moved up" to being able to drive home from the lot. We went to low-traffic neighborhoods and practiced hills over and over again. After I knew that shifting was second nature she drove on main roads. We did this for about a year from the time she got her learners permit until she got her license. She even took her road test on it. The guys at the DMV were quite impressed, but I was thrilled knowing that she couldn't text and drive. Great hub.

    • adjkp25 profile image
      Author

      David 5 years ago from Northern California

      ktrapp - thanks for sharing your story. I have heard arguments from both sides of this issue and I feel that whatever steps parents take, even if it is driving a stick shift, to keep our kids safe is a smart move. Thanks again.

    • profile image

      mr.goose 5 years ago

      Here in the UK, where manual (stick-shift) transmission is normal, kids change gear with the left hand, hold their mobile phone in the right and steer then with their knees - especially at speed on motorways where one doesn't need to steer very much! ;-)

    • profile image

      mr.goose 5 years ago

      Further to my last...

      Seems that manual transmission doesn't prevent "yer average Brit" from texting while driving either - despite making him/her 23 times more likely to cause a prang:-

      http://www.pcadvisor.co.uk/news/mobile-phone/33066...

    • adjkp25 profile image
      Author

      David 5 years ago from Northern California

      mr.goose - thanks for contributing. I recognize that one change will not alter the driving and/or texting habits of all drivers. Personally I'm all for whatever we, as adults, can do to make driving a safer experience for these younger drivers and the rest of us on the roads.

    • BLACKANDGOLDJACK profile image

      BLACKANDGOLDJACK 5 years ago from Blitzburgh area

      Quite the interesting article. I really like it when I read something that gives a perspective that I never thought about. Actually, I thought the opposite. That driving a stick was more dangerous for a new driver.

      My daughter just turned 18. A few days after her 16th birthday she got her permit. In PA you can’t get your license until at least 6 months later.

      I have a Jeep Wrangler, stick shift. So she tried it once and didn’t like it. I said okay, I don’t really want you trying to learn that when you’re trying to learn everything else about driving. On her 16th birthday I gave her a card that said she would have her own car by the time she obtained her license. Two weeks before she took the test I bought her a car and she was able to practice with it prior to the test. During the 6 months she was on her permit, we would go to various car dealers and drive their cars. She never asked to drive my Jeep after that first time.

      They just passed a law in PA that goes into effect this week that prohibits texting while driving. It will be interesting to see how many people actually get busted.

      I just wrote a hub yesterday entitled “What Should You Do If You Are in an Auto Accident?” that is directed in part to teenage drivers.

      One thing she did that she doesn’t do anymore is hang a bunch of necklaces and stuff on the rearview mirror. I took her car in to get inspected. The garage guy removed the stuff before he put the sticker on, and told us it was illegal.

      Anyway, good hub! We should always be thinking about anything that will keep our kids safer. I still get anxious when she gets in that car and takes off.

    • adjkp25 profile image
      Author

      David 5 years ago from Northern California

      blackandgoldjack - We live in California and the no texting law went into effect a year or two ago; before that it was no cell phones.

      I will check out your hub because, to be honest, I'll take any advice I can get in preparation of teaching our kids how to drive.

      Thanks

    • Horatio Plot profile image

      Horatio Plot 5 years ago from Bedfordshire, England.

      Interesting Hub.

      In the UK I would guess that 95% of us learn to drive in what we call a manual. The situation is much the same all over Europe. In Italy they would most likely just shake their heads at you in disbelief if you as much as showed them an automatic.

      I’ve been driving since 1976 and it’s only in the last 10 years or so that I’ve moved to autos.

      There is no doubt that you understand how a car works much more clearly with a manual. You learn to gauge how a car can responds far better. You have more control on the entrance and exit to bends and better control on steep hills. A lot of accidents are caused by vehicles suddenly changing gear in the middle of a bend.

      There is a far greater incidence of accidents in relation to cars suddenly going out of control in automatics than manuals. It’s called “Sudden Accident Syndrome”. Check out Honest John on the subject. He's a respected UK motoring journalist.

      http://www.honestjohn.co.uk/faq/driving-automatics...

    • adjkp25 profile image
      Author

      David 5 years ago from Northern California

      Horatio - I have heard from others about the driving habits over in the European areas when it comes to driving a manual. I agree that a driver has to really be 'one with the car' when driving a stick.

      Thanks for your comment.

    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 5 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      I think American parents buying kids manuals as their first car is brilliant! (Well, once the kid gets past the gear grinding and stalling out part...) I learned to drive in St Louis...in an automatic. Would still be walking (or dead) if I'd tried to learn in a manual. Later, though, I did get a car with a stick shift and LOVED it. Then another, and then the day came I got an automatic. Was "okay" but not half as much fun, and I hated it in the winter. Never quite felt "in control" on snowy streets, but I did learn why there are numbers on the shifter!

      My son, at 12, taught himself to drive in one of the stick shifts. Started by "warming the car up" for me of a morning, then graduated to backing up and going forward "just a little", then going from one end of the driveway to the other. Almost didn't live to 13 when he offered to teach his older sister to drive. She was NOT amused. lol!

      Anyway, he's all grown up now and can drive *anything* with a steering wheel AND text (one-handed) at the same time. Hate to say it, but it's a sight to behold. Never takes his eyes off the road. Oddly, he's only ever had one accident, because the guy who hit him was texting and my son couldn't get out of the way.

      Voted up and awesome! ;D

    • adjkp25 profile image
      Author

      David 5 years ago from Northern California

      JamaGenee - You are way braver than we are; we just started letting our 15 year old son back the truck down the driveway. I'm glad that he can drive anything, too many people can't. Thanks

    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 5 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      Oh, I didn't "let" my son start backing the car down the driveway. He just started doing did it while "warming up the car" for me!

      Unfortunately, those who really can't (and shouldn't) drive anything somehow manage to get a license anyway. That's a fact I drilled into my son's head from Day One - watch what other drivers are doing! - and is one reason he never takes his eyes off the road!

      Another is his father was a long-haul trucker, and during one summer visit when Son wasn't even old enough for a learner's permit, Dad let him drive his big rig around empty parking lots. (NO, I wouldn't have been THAT brave, so it was a good thing I didn't know about it until after the fact!) But his dad's motto was "Always give everybody else a place to go", so Son doesn't tailgate, either.

      I think what causes me the most concern is cars are no longer just transportation from A to B, they're rolling living rooms with (literally) most of the comforts of home. Too many built-in distractions far as I'm concerned!

    • adjkp25 profile image
      Author

      David 5 years ago from Northern California

      JamaGene - my mistake :) My wife and I still haven't figured out which one of is going to draw the short straw when the time comes but we do know he will be learning on the 160 HP car and not the 375HP truck with a HEMI engine.

    • Georgina_writes profile image

      Georgina_writes 5 years ago from Dartmoor

      Not sure about the stick-shift and safety aspect. We almost all drive stick-shifts in the UK and there are plenty of kids driving like lunatics, using cell phones, having accidents.

      My big bug bear is the sat nav. How many times do we see peolple driving along at 7o mph whilst focussing exclusively on reprogramming their little talking computer rather than the road. I think the sat nav should be disabled whilst the engine is running. Great hub. Rating up.

    • adjkp25 profile image
      Author

      David 5 years ago from Northern California

      Georgina_writes - I understand the logic but I too question the effectiveness. Thanks for the vote.

    • laeixx profile image

      I. Blake 3 years ago from Eastern, United States

      I completely agree. I've driven an automatic for years, but recently just bought a new car and guess what? STICK SHIFT! It's much more difficult to text and drive while both of your hands are busy, and it definitely makes you pay more attention to yourself and the surroundings because you're having to listen out for when you need to shift gears, etc. I love my 5-speed now! ~ Great hub Adj!

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