OMAHA, Neb. (KTMV) — Being able to drive a stick shift is a skill not many people in the U.S. have. Experts say it’s one that may need to come back as it could help to lessen distracted drivers on the road.
Jason Kasinger is part of a dying breed. He is one out of five Americans who know how to drive a stick shift. "My first experience was actually before I was 16, my dad was letting me in a field drive an old truck and it was one of the ones that had the shift on the wheel,” said Kasinger.
However, the car he took for a spin today, has its shifter in the center. But the fact there is one at all makes this car unique. In 2018 2% of all vehicles sold had manual transmissions. “It's very rare when we get a phone call and say hey we're trying to learn on a stick shift can you help us?" said Cornhusker Driving School instructor, Anna Venditte.
She has been an instructor at Cornhusker Driving School for six years. And she's gotten that phone call about 10 times. “I think it's gonna keep becoming a thing of the past,” said Venditte.
But for those who know how to work a stick shift they feel it needs to be part of more driver's futures. “You're definitely more involved in the process of driving and making that vehicle go forward than just hitting a gas pedal, there's a lot more happening, and you do have to be more aware,” said Kasinger.
Especially now that cars come equipped with all the bells and whistles. “I mean every year there's some fancy feature that just adds to the distractions,” said Venditte. 14-year-old Geoffrey Vittner said instead of sensors and back-up camera, he looked for something else in his first car. “It's a 1993 Ford Ranger with a five-speed manual transmission,” said Vittner. Eliminating the temptation to multi-tasking. “When you're in an automatic car you're more overseeing the process of driving, you're not really engaged with the vehicle,” said Vittner.
Something Venditte agrees with. “When you've got your left hand on the steering wheel, you got your right hand on the stick shift where's your phone gonna be?" she said. And for Kasinger driving a manual transmission means less distractions, and a more enjoyable driving experience. “I think everyone should know how to drive a stick shift,” he said.
According to research by Edmunds automakers are making automatic transmissions standard because they return better fuel economy and shift quicker and smoother than the best manual transmissions.