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To Make Roads Safer, Make People Drive a Stick

It's tough to shift and text, op-ed points out
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 25, 2019 6:00 PM CDT
   (Getty/stevanovicigor)

(Newser) – An op-ed in the New York Times makes the case for a low-tech solution to the problem of distracted driving: Embrace the stick shift. Drivers have to pay attention to actual driving when operating a manual transmission, writes Vatsal Thakkar, a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at NYU. "A car with a stick shift and clutch pedal requires the use of all four limbs, making it difficult to use a cellphone or eat while driving," he writes. "Lapses in attention are therefore rare, especially in city driving where a driver might shift gears a hundred times during a trip to the grocery store."

Thakkar writes that our vehicles are getting more and more high-tech in the name of safety—think backup cameras and radar sensors—but the irony is that those same features may make humans less vigilant. In accidents involving self-driving cars that have surfaced, it seems that humans in the vehicles as a safety backup did little to stop the crashes, perhaps lulled into false security. Thakkar laments the declining sales of manual transmissions and automakers' continued shift toward automatics. "The cure for our attentional voids might be less technology, not more," he writes. Click for the full column. (A police officer was allegedly killed by a man texting his wife about their evening plans.)

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