'Clutch' idea could keep teens safer on the road

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by GLENN FARLEY / KING 5 News

kvue.com

Posted on May 8, 2013 at 4:24 PM

So you're out shopping for a car for your teen. Dealers say most parents go for the automatic, as that's what they're kid probably trained on in driver's ed.

Sixteen-year-old Riley Johnson's parents went the opposite direction. The shifting of the gears on the Mazda 3 requires Riley to stay busy.

“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.”

Riley's parents took notice of all those messages about the risks of using a phone while driving - too many sad stories. And while they trust their son, they're not taking any chances.

Riley has a smartphone, but when he gets in the car, it goes into a compartment. Bluetooth? That might come later. But the car forces Riley to keep one hand on the wheel, and the other on the stick, especially in city traffic. 
 
“I drive out on the streets every day. People are crazy,” said Riley’s mom, Holly, who says both she and her husband learned on stick shifts.

And the Johnsons aren't alone. Other parents at University Prep High School are doing it too. Riley says the kids don't seem to mind.

“I was actually surprised. Cause a lot of kids actually have sticks and their parents are actually kind of feeling the same sort of way. But the majority of kids I think are still driving automatic cars,” he said.

Learning on a stick had its nervous moments, particularly with lots of hills, but it's clear Riley has the stick down.

And the plan is that his car will be handed down to two younger brothers, who will also learn.

Besides, there's another big advantage when driving by hand. If you can drive a stick you can drive just about anything.

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