"No one appreciates manual transmissions anymore."
That's what a Rochester-based mechanic told me last week when I was out shooting a separate story. The comment stayed in my head; I drive automatic, and my brothers often chide me for doing so. But is the stick shift really an endangered species?
Yes. DailyTech.com reports that 91 percent of all 2009-model cars sold in the United States came with an automatic transmission. The tech watchdog quoted the Detroit News, which reports that American automakers don't have much interest in stick anymore.
That leads to another question: Are stick-shift drivers better drivers? The old theory goes that if you're driving manual transmission, you're in tune with your car. You have more control. Over at The Atlantic, Alexis Madrigal writes this week
that teen drivers will suffer the most from this shift in driving habits:
The deskilling of teen drivers, I'm sure, has begun. One more skill, like efficient rotary phone dialing, will go missing.
She's writing with a bit of snark, but it's enough to make parents think a little bit. On 13 WHAM News we've reported about the advent of cars that drive themselves -- the truly automatic. The combination of cars that do most of the work with mobile phones gives teens plenty of reasons to be distracted. And that is troubling.