- Hollis Johnson
Driving stick is a vanishing art. Everyone, seemingly, learns to drive on an automatic transmission and then never picks up the skills need to operate a manual.
Which is a shame, as there’s no better way to learn to drive than by learning to drive stick.
Stickshifts are also quite a bit more fun than automatics, for what it’s worth.
I was thinking about all this recently because I have a 14-year-old who will start learning to drive next year, and I’m adamant that she learns on a stickshift. However, since I sold me Mazda Miata years ago, I currently lack a stickshift car.
(I don’t lack for the stickshift experience, as we frequently test vehicles with the old-school transmission, but I’m not allowed to let my teen learn to drive on a press car!)
My plan is to buy a junky old Miata for a few grand and call it a teaching tool (there are two more kids coming up behind my teenager). For the record, the reason that it’s a good idea to learn on stick is that it enforces and reveals a connection between driver and vehicle. You have to manage the gas pedal, the clutch pedal, the brake, and the gearshift, in the process developing an understanding for why cars have transmissions in the first place.
Sort of a hands-on lesson in mechanical engineering.
I think stickshifts are also safer, by and large, because you have to concentrate on driving them, rather than fiddle with Apple CarPlay.
If you want something more, you can check out something that has been dreamed up by Hagerty, a company that insures collectible automobiles, as Popular Mechanics reported:
Hagerty, new home of formerR&TEditor in Chief Larry Webster and Deputy Editor Joe DeMatio, has put together a program to teach young people age 15-25 how to drive manual transmission vehicles. Using classic cars, classroom sessions, and a closed parking lot course, the Hagerty Driving Experience aims to pass on the skills of stick-shift driving to the next generation.
The program is available in four states: Colorado, Michigan, Arizona, Texas (and Canada!) and it’s free*. That said, if you love cars and want to pass it on, this is good way to do it. Certainly sounds better that video games.
By the way, if you want to watch me give a stickshifting lesson – in an $80,000 Jaguar F-Type! – then click here. *This post has been updated to include the information that the Hagerty program is free.