9319370_SParents teaching their teenagers how to drive a car discover it can be a test in patience, perseverance and restraint. Teaching kids how to drive a stick shift takes the challenge to another level …

Manual transmissions may be rarer than ever on American roads, but they are still out there. And learning to drive one is an important skill people should have. But knowing how to properly operate a stick shift isn’t just handy—it’s an important safety concern.

Drivers who struggle with manual transmission may roll back on a hill or pull into traffic and suddenly stall. Combine those potential dangers with teens’ already emerging driving skills, and you start to understand the potential hazards.

The internet offers plenty of strategies for mastering the technical aspects of a driving manual transmission. What follows are strategies for parents to guide the process and instill confidence in their young driver.

  • Learn to drive an automatic first: A train of thought exists that kids are better off learning how to drive a manual transmission before learning an automatic. Although this has some merit, if your teen is nervous about driving on the street for the first time, the prospect of killing the engine in traffic will be terrifying. Basic road skills will be easier with an automatic, so go that route first.
  • Your automatic can help: Many automatic cars offer the ability to manually shift gears—but without a clutch and the need to figure out the pedal timing. Let your teen practice with this feature so he or she gets a feel about how to recognize when to upshift or downshift.
  • Find an empty parking lot: The most difficult part of driving a stick is getting into first gear. Find an empty parking lot or other space with no traffic and have your teen practice getting into and out of first.
  • No passengers: Trying to drive a manual transmission is nerve-racking enough; your teen doesn’t need an audience, such as siblings commenting or snickering when the engine dies. Keep it you and your child, and offer plenty of positive encouragement.
  • Avoid hills: Although novice drivers can’t dodge hilly roads forever, waiting until they are comfortable with the manual experience not only is safer, but also decreases the chances they’ll suffer a mental setback—after all, hills are tough to navigate with a stick for many experienced drivers.

Realistically, if you give your new driver a used car with a manual transmission, the clutch might not survive a year. That’s OK (albeit, expensive) because the health of the car is not as important as the health of your children. Take a deep breath: You can get through this …

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