SHARP & Acura
In a world where semi-autonomous driving technology is spreading across manufacturer lineups as if Skynet is mounting its first offensive, the manual transmission seems ancient. The act of manually shifting gears hasn’t gone completely extinct, it’s definitely a dying art. According to the EPA, the percentage of cars sold with a manual transmission peaked in the 1980s at 30% but has since fallen closer to 2% as of 2021. When Acura announced that the 2023 Integra was going to get a manual gearbox, car fans around the world were equal parts surprised and impressed. Forgetting the common complaints from car enthusiasts and purists for a second though, the increasing lack of drivers with the skill to drive a manual has major side effects. For one, driving a manual makes you a better driver.
Despite all the campaigns with billboards and TV commercials warning against the dangers of texting while driving, sadly, people still do it. Drive a car with a manual transmission and you’ll quickly figure out that occupying one hand with a smartphone becomes an impossibility. Needing two hands to shift and steer means any texting takes a backseat and your attention remains firmly on the road ahead.
The more involved a driver is, it stands to reason the more aware of their surroundings they become. When you have to stay mindful of engine speed, which gear you’re in, and which gear you might need next, you’re naturally more cognizant of traffic and road conditions. If the most basic goal is to not stall the car, keeping an eye on the world outside the car is downright critical.
Semi-autonomous driving technology certainly has its place in the world, but when the car takes over certain responsibilities for the driver, mental relaxation is inevitable. When the mind stops wasting energy concerning itself with accelerating, braking, or even staying between the lane lines and maintaining a safe distance to the next car, it means it no longer has to worry about its immediate surroundings. Manufactures that make cars equipped with semi-autonomous tech go to great lengths to say the driver must keep their attention on the road but in reality, the mental relaxation begets distraction. That’s when drivers get lazy.
Driving a manual transmission isn’t just for purists. Working the clutch and rowing the gear lever helps a driver be more in tune with the car. Sure, you’ll enthusiast waxing lyrical about “being one with the car” but it truly is a level of mechanical manipulation rarely experienced by the average driver. Learn to drive manual and you’ll possibly not only become a better, more aware driver, but you’ll feel incredibly rewarded and accomplished in the process. It takes a bit of skill and, hey, it is a dying art after all.