Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Stick versus Automatic When Learning to Drive

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Stick versus Automatic When Learning to Drive

Article excerpt

Dear Car Talk: I'm a single mom, and I have four children (three boys and a girl) who will all be driving in the next two to five years.

I want them to learn on a manual transmission. I did, and I believe (of course) that it made me a better, more knowledgeable driver.

But above and beyond that, my No. 1 concern is their safety. Do you think it is safer for them to learn on an automatic car, which might be simpler, given all the modern world's distractions? Or would it better to have them learn on a manual-transmission car, which keeps them constantly mentally engaged in the driving process, and therefore more focused? Is knowing how to drive a car with a manual transmission still something every "real man" needs to know how to do (in which case my daughter as well, obviously)? Or are automatic transmissions so ubiquitous that it's more like insisting that my children know how to shoe horses? I currently have a 2001 Honda Odyssey and a 1996 Honda Accord, both automatic transmissions, so deciding on a manual would mean an investment.

But if you think it's worth it, well, that's why I'm giving myself two years' lead time in asking. Kindest regards -- Karen

Ray: Have you considered getting the kids a group application to the circus, Karen? I hear that those Volkswagen clown cars are stick shifts. I'd let them learn on Barnum and Bailey's clutches.

Actually, I think I'd lean toward letting them learn on an automatic. For one thing, it does remove one complication -- shifting gears -- that itself can be a distraction for a new driver. And taking gear-shifting out of the equation allows them to concentrate on learning to steer, brake, accelerate, merge and hold their Pumpkin Spice Latte in one hand while texting with the other. You add a manual transmission to the mix, and they'll have to learn to hold the drink with their teeth. …

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