Standard should be the new standard

Opinion

I’m sure by now, you have seen someone driving distractedly, or been guilty of this yourself. Cell phone use while driving leads to 1.6 million crashes each year. However, it’s not just texting that is the issue, other actions including eating, conversing, drinking (and spilling), using an in-vehicle navigation system, or applying makeup, which led to 2,841 distracted driving deaths in 2018.

The solution to this could be quite simple: We don’t have to worry so much about changing the behavior of people. Instead, just change the transmission of the car from automatic to standard. 

Many people today do not know what a standard, or manual transmission, is. In a car with a manual transmission, there are three pedals on the ground: gas, brake, and a clutch. In addition to the third pedal, drivers have to shift the car themselves with a shifter located near the center console, rather than the computer doing all this for you like in an automatic.

What this means is that every time the driver has to change gears, they must let off the gas, push in the clutch, shift up/down, release the clutch, and apply gas while doing so. 

This means that now both feet are required to drive, and you need one hand on the steering wheel and the other on the shifter. With all four limbs being occupied, there is no time or opportunity to get distracted. 

However, there is a downside to this: manuals have a learning curve. I recently got my permit and was able to drive one of these cars. Being a gearhead my whole life and knowing what to do, I still struggled. Most, if not all, people will stall their first few times driving, miss a shift, or over-rev the engine, but it’s all part of the learning experience.

The benefits of driving a manual far outweigh the initial learning curve. Nowadays, with the computer shifting your car for you, a repair on an automatic car can be quite expensive. Re-doing the whole transmission in an automatic can be double the price of a manual, because manual cars are much simpler. 

Another great point is manual cars are more fuel-efficient when driven properly. These cars do not cost as much as their automatic counterparts because they don’t have as high of a demand. On top of that, manual cars do not need to replace their brakes as often because drivers are able to downshift and use the engine to slow themselves down.

Manual transmissions also get better grip in rain and snow because you have ultimate control of the car and all of its actions. Not to mention, these cars are fun to drive and would give drivers something to do on the commutes back and forth to school.

The bottom line is that all of your limbs are doing something, so there is no time to get distracted. Despite the learning curve, most drivers get used to it or master it within two hours to a couple of weeks. It would be in everybody’s best interest to buy or at least experiment with driving a manual.