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Friday, June 21
The Indiana Daily Student

opinion

Save the manuals

A major automotive trait seems to be disappearing from American roadways. And no, I don’t mean pop-up headlights or wire spoke wheels. The manual transmission is becoming an increasing rarity, and drivers competent at rowing their own gears are an equally hard find.

Not only is the manual transmission a staple of car culture, but I believe it makes for both a better driving experience and a better driver. All drivers should make an effort to learn the use of a manual transmission at some point in their lives.

According to edmunds.com, only 6.5 percent of the cars sold in the first quarter of 2012 were manual — and that was up almost 3 percent from the previous year. Today, only a small percentage of cars even offer a manual option, further indicating the American consumer’s ?appetite for automatics.

I initially learned to drive only automatic cars, and it wasn’t until I was 19 years old that I finally learned to drive stick. It was as if I were learning to drive for the first time again.

I was incredibly focused on my driving, as I had to be extremely conscientious of how I integrated shifting. I saw driving through fresh eyes and was even more engaged than during my first drives alone.

Therefore, I believe learning a manual can make drivers more aware of both safe driving habits and how the car they are operating works.

According to Jalopnik writer Thomas McIntyre, “When you understand how the power is going from the engine to the wheels, and you control that bit, you’re more likely to appreciate what you’re driving and understand what it needs and wants.”

Learning to drive a ?manual requires drivers to have at least a basic understanding of how the powertrain works, and in turn it makes them more aware of the incredibly complex machine they are operating. I believe that with this awareness comes an increased level of overall driving safety.

Another aspect of safety that is especially relevant to college-age drivers is the possible need to drive an intoxicated friend’s car. If the only car available has a manual transmission and the only friend of yours that knows how to drive it is drunk, your friend group runs the risk of making the dangerous choice to let him or her drive.

Shifting for yourself is also an incredibly fun way to connect to the road. There is some intangible form of satisfaction in knowing that you have such a high level of control over your car. One of my favorite ways to unwind after a busy week is to drive down winding country roads and get a chance to truly play around with the shifter.

To quote McIntyre once more, “With a manual transmission, you decide exactly how much power is going from the engine to the wheels at all times.”

This increased level of control is not only safer but more fun. Learning to drive a manual can be frustrating at first, but the benefits far outweigh any initial hesitations you might have.

Don’t let the number of manual transmissions on the road continue to dwindle. Learn stick and become another advocate for the fight to save the manuals.

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