Automotive / Engineering

Manual or Automatic Safer for Driving in Modern Day Traffic?

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This article was originally published on November 26, 2017.

Brand new cars and motorbikes are being introduced into the market every day. But, there is this never-ending debate that has been going on for decades. Is manual or automatic safer?

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 use since the invention of motor vehicles. 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.

Manual transmission allows you to control the speed and torque available to drive wheels depending on 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 the last few decades 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.

It has simple gearstick 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) and press the accelerator pedal as you slowly release the brake pedal.

So, is manual or automatic safer?

Controllability

Cars with manual transmission allow for more control over the car than the ones with automatic transmission. While some automatic transmission cars do allow you to change gears, they do not provide you the full control. If we rank these two transmissions based on controllability, then the manual transmission is safer. The more you are in control, the safer you are.

Ease of driving

In an automatic transmission, you don’t have to constantly shift gears during peak hours of traffic. How many times have you witnessed drivers having a snack while they are in traffic? Some confident drivers 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 debatable topic.

But, driving an automatic car sure puts less stress on your hands compared to the manual especially in modern traffic. 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.

We have to make a choice based on our driving conditions. If you live in a less populated area where traffic is sparse, then you might like manual.

But, if you live in a city where you need to constantly stop for traffic signals and traffic jams, then you might like an automatic transmission. Ofcourse, many do 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. The more involved you are in driving, the safer you are. So, test drive both transmissions and choose the one that suits your personal driving style.

About Santhosh Kumar D

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

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