“I learned to drive on a stick” is a gearhead’s mantra. We all tell tales of the first three-pedal car we learned to operate.
For some reason, it’s a badge of honor that we learned to drive a car and learned to operate a manual gearbox at the same time.
I’ve taught several of my children to drive, most recently 10-year-old Bradley in his 1960 Bugeye Sprite.
Teaching someone to drive, and to drive a stick at the same time, requires a very calm, Zen-like approach. There is much information for the driver to process, and the downside risks of if you make an error are high.
Getting the brake and clutch confused as you are coming up to a stoplight is not uncommon. Rolling through a red light as you move your feet around on the pedals can have unfortunate consequences.
Repeated launching of a car with fits and starts, chirping tires and frequent stalls can lead to a very frustrated new driver — and an exasperated teacher. Not to mention the possibility of a burned clutch and even a snapped axle depending on the horsepower involved.
I just came across this article abstract, “How Automatic is Manual Gear Shifting” — that addresses the complexity of learning to drive and learning to shift simultaneously.
It made me rethink the learning process.
I now believe that people should first be taught to drive on an automatic. That way they can focus on the skill set required to navigate stoplights, traffic, turning and so on without having to think about coordinating a clutch, gas pedal and brake.
Once they are comfortable with the skills needed to drive, we can add the challenge of operating a manual shift car.
It makes sense, and I don’t know why I didn’t think about it before.
Now, I’ll simply say, “let’s learn to drive” on one day, and “let’s learn to drive a stick” the next.