Society has become so dependant on technology that it has actually caused people to become worse drivers. How frustrating is it when the driver in front of you is going 20 in a 45? They weave in and out over the yellow line, slow you down, make your blood boil, and induce a road rage like none other. And you know good and well what they are doing because odds are that you are doing it too or have been guilty of it.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the number of accidents has risen since 2000. But cars and trucks of today are equipped with safety features that 10 or 20 years ago seemed like science fiction. From Bluetooth and voice activation to back-up cameras and lane assist, vehicles that are designed to be safer, in essence, are crippling people and causing “driver atrophy.”
When we drive our senses should be heightened. But from texting to changing the playlist on our phones, more and more drivers are losing focus because of too many distractions and the endorphins released when we use our phones.
But a manual gear shift could easily solve the problem. In a study on boys with ADHD and driving, researchers found that manual transmissions resulted in safe, more attentive driving because switching gears leaves no room for distractions.
However, only 4 percent of cars on the road today are equipped with a manual transmission. Sadly, there is an entire generation of drivers who will never get to experience what it’s like to drive a car or a truck with a clutch.
There are other benefits of driving a vehicle with a manual transmission besides reducing distractions. With automatic cars, if the battery is dead, you are basically SOL until someone arrives with a set of jumper cables. But with a stick shift, as long as the charging system is in good shape, you can get the truck or car started by rolling the car while pushing in the clutch. Once you get going just a little bit, quickly let the clutch out and turn the key, and you are back in business.
A vehicle with a stick shift also provides better fuel efficiency compared to automatics because a manual transmission weighs less, therefore it doesn’t use as much fuel.
For those of you who don’t know what it is like, driving a stick shift is a total body experience requiring the use of arms, legs, feet, and hands all simultaneously, making it almost impossible to text and drive or even eat for that matter.
My first car was a stick shift. 16-year-old me learned to drive a used 1996 green Mustang convertible with a beige ragtop, and she was beautiful. God rest her soul.
I spent the better part of my youth driving that car. It hauled me back and forth to high school every day. Friday nights were spent with my best friend riding around town with the top down, singing along to a mixtape of the Dixie Chicks. And that same car hauled me back home from college every weekend.
Some of the best times my husband and I had when we first started dating were in that car. He loved it too as he tried to impress me with his driving skills which included donuts in abandoned parking lots to squalling tires at red lights, something that can only be achieved properly with a manual gear shift.
Despite showing her age, at that time she still had some get up and go in her. And to this day, nothing can mimic the feeling of stomping on the gas pedal and hearing the engine rev up as I anticipated when to shift gears.
I cried the day I sold that Mustang. I felt as if I was selling my memories for parts. I don’t have many regrets in life, but selling that car is one of them. Driving a stick shift is a sensory experience like none other- when you have the ability to control a machine simply by feeling and listening.