Mazda3 stick shift

Mazda3 stick shift.

A Seattle couple may have found the ultimate way to prevent teens from engaging in distracted driving. As Patrick George writes in Jalopnik:

If Jalopnik were to start handing out Parent of the Year awards, Seattleites Holly Johnson and her husband would have to be the top choices. They found the solution to distracted driving that we have LITERALLY BEEN PREACHING FOR YEARS — they bought their teenager a car with a stick shift. Huzzah!

Concerned about distracted driving, the Johnsons recently bought their 16-year-old son Riley a Mazda3 hatchback with a manual transmission to make sure he will be so busy shifting that he won’t be able to use a cell phone, have a beverage, or even change the radio station while driving.

Glenn Farley, writing for King 5 News, quotes Riley: “I’ll always have my hand in the middle dash area,” he said. “I can’t really drink anything, until like I’m at a stop light or anything.”

Whenever Riley gets into his car, he stashes his smartphone in a compartment. Blue Tooth might come in handy eventually, but not right now, Farley writes.

George, in Jalopnik, quips: “Granted, Riley, the best way to drive isn’t to have your hand on the stick at all times, but you’ll get there eventually.”

Riley’s parents both learned how to drive using stick shifts, and say they are not the only parents in their town who had the idea to buy a car with a manual transmission, as others at University Prep High School are doing the same thing. The Johnsons’ plan is to hand the car down to Riley’s two younger brothers when they are learning to drive.

George goes on to say:

It’s kind of a funny story in a way, like how the TV reporters and the parents treat the manual like some zany, anachronistic novelty. One of them even compares the car to the Model T, which is not correct at all. The fact that this is a news story at all is pretty ridiculous.

At the end of the King 5 News video, Riley says to the camera, “Hey, I’ll be able to drive a Ferrari and you won’t.”

George sends Riley an indirect message via his Jalopnik piece: “I don’t have the heart to tell the kid that that’s not really the case anymore.”

As this blog wrote on May 3, more than 3,300 people were killed because of distracted driving in 2011, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In that post, we note that educational outreach programs have helped to inform teen drivers about the dangers of distracted driving. A national Ad Council survey conducted in June 2012 found that 51% of young adult drivers polled said they are “extremely concerned” about their peers texting while driving (a 7% increase over the previous year), and 34% of those polled said they never text while driving (up from 28% in 2011).

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