Manual or Automatic Safer for Driving in Modern Day Traffic?


This article was originally published on November 26, 2017.

Manual or Automatic safer? This is a never-ending debate that has been going on for decades. Brand new cars and motorbikes are being introduced into the market every day. Modern-day traffic has forced us to think cautiously about road safety and it is the time that we need to adapt to the ever-changing traffic environment.

Before we discuss which transmission is safer to drive in modern-day traffic, let’s take a quick look at the manual and the automatic transmission itself.

Manual transmission

The manual transmission has been in the use for decades. The power from the engine flows through the manual transmission gearbox before it reaches the drive wheels. It makes use of a simple gear set and a driver-operated clutch. This transmission allows you to control the speed and torque available to drive wheels for different driving conditions. You can decide when to shift gears (1, 2, 3, 4 and 5) and when to use the clutch.

Automatic transmission

Picture of an automatic stick shift to show if manual or automatic is safer.

Automatic cars have become popular in recent years for their ease of driving. It does not have a clutch pedal. You don’t have to manually shift the gears, the car shifts it for you. As you can see from the above image, you can see these simple controls like P (Parking), R (Reverse), N (Neutral) and D (Drive). To drive forward, all you need to do is just move the stick to D (Drive), release the brake pedal and press the accelerator pedal.

Manual or automatic safer?

Cars with manual transmission allow for more control over the car than the ones with automatic transmission. Manual makes it easier for you to slow down and stop the car in case of an emergency. While some automatic transmission cars do allow you to change gears but still it does not provide you the full control of a manual transmission. If we rank these two transmissions based on controllability, then the manual transmission is safer.

In an automatic transmission, you don’t have to constantly shift gears during peak hours of traffic. How many times have you seen witnessed drivers having a snack while they are driving in traffic? They just use one hand to control the steering and the other hand to eat.  But is it safer to eat while driving? Well, that’s a different debate.

But driving an automatic car sure puts less stress on your hands compared to the manual. In manual, often you need to take one hand off the wheel to shift gears and there is an extra clutch pedal to deal with. If less stress means more safety, then the automatic transmission is safer.

Picture of a modern day traffic jam to show if manual or automatic safer.

Controllability and ease of driving are two main factors for driving safely. We have to make a choice based on our driving conditions. If you live in a less populated area where traffic is sparse, then the manual is the safer choice. But if you live in a city where you need to constantly stop for traffic signals and traffic jams, then the automatic transmission is the safer choice. But I do find some people enjoy manual driving even in city traffic conditions. It all depends on each person’s view of driving and it has an impact on the safety of everyone. Share your thoughts and comments with us below.

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About Santhosh Kumar D


Aeronautical engineer and a science enthusiast. Also an editor & founder of Svash Media.

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