This I Believe

Allyson - Irvine, California
Entered on May 5, 2009
Age Group: Under 18
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I believe I am a better driver than you. Well, not me specifically, but anyone who drives a manual car is a better driver than anyone who doesn’t. The reason for this is that it simply takes more skill to drive a stick shift. Because I know my car, I am more aware of my surroundings while driving.

The first time I tried to drive stick shift I was put behind the wheel of a manual transmission Honda Accord, and I almost had a heart attack. I was in a parking lot, with my dad in the passenger seat, I had no idea what the third petal did, or what it meant to be in gear. But my dad was giving me this car and I would have to figure it out if I ever wanted to leave the house.

Slowly I began to think about my actions as a set of steps. I have to clutch, shift, accelerate, clutch, shift, accelerate, with finesse I might add. Without a steady motion between clutching and accelerating everyone in the car gets major whip lash. My dad would always be yelling at me, “You have to be gentle! You will ruin your engine if you keep this up!” It took time but I learned to pace myself, to not jump the gun, and how to not break my passengers’ necks.

I understood the basic concept of driving, but after several bad experiences on the streets I still didn’t have the confidence or the nerve to actually drive on my own. I gave up on using my car for a couple of months because of this.

My older sister quickly caught on to my games and forced me into the driver’s seat again. She made me drive her everywhere, until it became routine and burned into my brain. There were a few scary moments, like stalling on the freeway, but I got pasted them.

I can drive with confidence now. I am completely aware of how my vehicle operates and moves. I can feel the movement of the car and know when to shift, rather than looking at the RPM on the dash board. I can hear the engine rev loudly and know I’m in a gear too low for how fast I am driving. It has been a year since I learned to drive stick shift and I am so glad I didn’t give up because it seemed too hard.

I had the chance to drive my mom’s automatic car a month ago, and I got bored with it. I played with the radio, looked through my phone, and checked myself in the mirror. This is all stuff I do normally in my own car, but because I didn’t have to work at driving I got lazy. I realized driving an automatic car is just so simple that you forget it can be dangerous.

I believe people who drive manual cars are better drivers. It can be a difficult task to learn, but it will teach you patience and discipline if you get it. And when you know it, it gives you the confidence to drive better because you have an elevated level of road sense. This will ultimately make you a safer and better driver.