Hi all and welcome to the second post on this brand new blog.
Let’s Start The Automatic Vs Manual Debate
This week I’ll be examining the differences between driving automatic cars and manual cars… Are automatics easier to drive?
When I first started out as a DRIVING INSTRUCTOR it never even occurred to me that I could or should teach in an automatic car. There were a few, and I mean maybe 3 driving schools in Coventry that had an automatic car for lessons. These tended to be reserved for those with disabilities or REAL difficulty using a manual. These days there are literally dozens of schools in the city offering autos. Many ONLY use autos!
Why? Is it really that much simpler to drive an automatic?
Let’s look at the evidence.
OK. The good points to using an automatic are obviously to do with the clutch, or lack of, and the gears, or lack of.
To pull away you need to select D for drive, release the handbrake and accelerate away. (This is of course just the physical action of moving away I’m talking about, naturally the proper precautions need to be taken.) Whereas in a manual you need to depress the clutch, find 1st gear, apply a little acceleration and find the biting point… then you release the handbrake before applying more power and gently releasing the clutch. Is that really too hard? What about after a few practice goes?
Granted, if you have been used to driving an automatic then switching to a manual may be a bit complicated… however, if you’ve been used to driving a manual be careful if you switch to an auto, or this might happen!! – You select D for drive and release the handbrake, then you build up a little power (as you would in a manual) and the car has already started to move! Could be dangerous and YES I DO SPEAK FROM EXPERIENCE 😉
The next obvious advantage of an auto is when dealing with junctions (particularly roundabouts). In a manual car you need to make you decision whether to go or wait about 30m before the line, this is to give you enough time to change down your gear before entering the roundabout. Some pupils find this difficult as they don’t think they know enough that far away, or don’t think they’ll have enough time to change gear if they leave the choice too late. In an automatic you can leave the decision ‘almost’ to the point of entry. At any time you can stop braking and apply the accelerator to drive on. That way you can be absolutely sure your decision is right before continuing. I agree, autos make junctions easier, but consider this…
You still need to complete 5 out of the 6 steps to approach a junction: Mirrors, Signal, Position, Speed, Look/Decide… it’s only the Gear Change that you miss out. Is a gear change really that much harder?
What about slow manoeuvres: Turn in the road, reversing, parking, etc.
In my humble opinion, and it is just my opinion so no complaints please if you disagree, it is actually EASIER to manoeuvre in a manual. You have much more control over WHEN the car will move and exactly HOW FAST. By making slight adjustments in the height of the clutch you can have total control. In an automatic you use the accelerator and the brake (not at the same time) to try to control the speed. A little too much power and off you go…..
Now I hear people say that… driving is driving… and it shouldn’t matter what car you pass your test in, you have proven yourself a competent driver and safe on the road. Well to those people I say this… The rules of the road are the same for bikers and truckers too. So is it ok to pass in an automatic and then buy a bike or get a job driving a truck? Of course not. You need to prove yourself competent in different types of vehicle.
So this is what I would suggest (you are welcome to disagree).
Everyone should have to take a driving test in a manual car to show they have the correct understanding of how a car works and how to cope properly with speed and gears whilst driving in traffic (I will naturally give exceptions where necessary on medical grounds). You can then choose to drive an auto if you so wish, once you have a full licence.
There I’ve said it. That’s what I think and you are welcome to disagree. Personally I think there are too many learners taking the easy option for no other reason than they can’t be bothered to learn manual. I may be wrong, maybe the amount of medical cases has exploded of late, but I don’t think so.
Anyway… Off my soapbox for a moment and a quick look at the last week.
I want to congratulate Tom who passed his test in Coventry this week. It was his first time and he got through with just 7 minors. Afterwards he seemed a little underwhelmed though, not the happy face I’m used to seeing. Turns out he was NOT IMPRESSED with the standard of the test. It should have been longer and more rigorous. It simply wasn’t hard enough to really test his ability to drive!
He wasn’t saying that to boast or show off at how easy he found it… He is genuinely concerned that a sub-standard driver could pass just as easily or that he could pass if he wasn’t really up to it. He may have a point but I’m not sure any other learner out there would agree!
If you have a view on the Auto v Manual question or if you think a change needs to be made to the driving test… Please leave a comment / Share on Facebook / Have your say.
Let’s find out what the learners of the UK really think about the driving test and whether automatics are the lazy man’s way or the way of the future.