Learning to drive



When asked about teaching teens to drive, Ray & Tom often recommend an automatic transmission. I think a stick shift is best when learning to drive. It requires much more mental & physical involvement & attention to the act of driving. I taught both my kids to drive on a 5-speed stick. They hated me at the time, but now are proud they are the only ones among their friends who know how to drive a standard shift. It had the additional advantage of insuring none of my daughter’s dorm mates would borrow her car at college.


I suggest all new teen-age drivers start with an automatic transmission and focus their attention on driving (no cellphones, MP3 players, etc.). Give it a year, then learn to drive a stick. There are too many distracted drivers on the road today. Start by focusing on traffic, the road and other distracted drivers, then go to a stick.



I see no reason to make it as hard as possible. Start on the automatic transmission.


I taught both of my kids to drive in a manual transmission vehicle. They’ve both been driving more than ten years and still drive manuals.

My daughter likes the fact that she can drive stick when many of her male friends cannot.

I think it’s something EVERYONE should learn in order to get a license, even if they never drive stick again.


Our drivers-ed car was a '61 Ford 6, 3 on the tree. As I remember, nobody complained or failed the class…


I believe an automatic makes the best driver’s education car. It doesn’t make one a better driver, but it makes the teacher’s job easier if the student learning to drive a car with a manual transmission already knows how to drive an automatic.

Either way you end up with the same results.


I have no problem teaching my kids how to drive a stick. But I found it was easier teaching them the basic driving skills first…then move on to something more complicated.


I think learning to drive stick should be a requirement to get a license. My dad flat out told me that I was learning to drive on stick, in my case a 1973 F-100 with 3 on the tree and bad clutch. I was actually looking forward to it, and I’m glad that’s the way I learned how to drive.


Ah, the good old days – before cup holders, kiddie seats, MP3 players, cell phones, CD players, text messaging, navigation systems, etc., etc. That was a time when drivers actually FOCUSED on driving. It’s a whole different world today. I learned to drive stick shift in the 1960’s on a English-made Ford Anglia but I would not recommend it to any teenage student driver today with a 15-second, MTV-inspired attention span.



I agree learning how to drive a stick is important, maybe I’m a little soft but I feel in teaching the critter that throwing a manual transmission into the mix is not a high priority.


I’m in total agreement with the learn on automatic, then move to standard. In “our” days that’s all we had, and the clutches took a lot of grief trying to do both. It’s easier on both cars and people.


I think that learning to drive on an automatic transmission is the best choice and then practice on a manual transmission later on. My dad thought it would be a good idea for me to start on manual transmission first but that didn’t work out too well. I wish I would have practiced on a manual transmission more than once after I felt more comfortable with driving on the road.


To teach manual transmission, most of it has to be done with the car parked. Does no one remember in my generation, we sat in the car, and used clutch and transmission to practice shifting, with no danger at all, since the car was parked? That is how you teach kids to drive manual transmission, with the keys in your pocket, though newer cars need it for the interlock, I guess. The method is the same; shift the car until they get the sequence, which does take time.

There are a high percentage of drivers who learn on automatics who absolutely resist manuals later. Teach better and manual is the best choice to start. It approaches insanity to expect kids to learn to shift in a moving car.


This is a tough argument. Personally, I learned to drive an automatic before stick, but thats because when I got my permit, I drove my parent’s mini van around. After I got my full license, I got my own car which was a stick, and I learned on my parents other car that was a manual. I honestly don’t think it matters what you start out on, but I think everyone should learn to drive a manual transmission. You never know what kind of situation you could be put in. When you find yourself the emergency designated driver at a party all of a sudden, thats not a good time to learn how to drive a stick shift, assuming thats the only car available.


Thanks guys for all these learing to drive stories. They are great reading. It is best to teach kids to drive both standard and automatics. Which comes first depends on which car the kid is going to be driving when she gets her permit. for myself, I first drove a 65 Impalla automatic. I later learned to drive a ford truck. My teacher parked it on a dirt slope above an arroyo, and told me to back it up from there. It was scary, but I learned to use the hand brake and the clutch peddle in tandem on a hill. Oh the good old days.


Just a thought, only marginally related; but, someone’s going to need to pass a driver’s test. A family friend asked me to work with their son who had failed his driving test twice. After riding with him for one minute I could see his problem. And though he had complete control of the car, he drove like his parents whom I never liked riding with. Hyper, gas/brake, gas/brake motions give the impression you’re out of control. All it took was a discussion and no practice with him on my part, and he easily passed his next test.

I just told him to drive like he had a car full of passengers, each with a full cup of hot coffee on their lap. Being “smooooth” is one key in normal driving you need to convey to the officer that you’re in control. I guess the mental image worked. I got a free dinner for 5 minutes work.


I’ve seen similar instances where teen drivers drive like the parent they normally ride with, not the person who taught them to drive. “Do as I say, not as I do” doesn’t work with teens. If their parents drive like idiots, chances are, unless they heed wise advice like yours, they will drive like idiots too.