Zimbabwe’s Vehicle Inspection Department (VID) will soon be allowing trainee drivers to use their own automatic transmission vehicles during road tests. At the moment the only official way for you to get a driver’s licence is to go on a road test using a manual transmission vehicle.
You will notice I said officially because I know someone who knows someone who obtained their driver’s licence at the VID using their own automatic transmission vehicle which they brought for a road test. In fact, there are a lot of people who know someone who knows someone who has done this. Now this might be allowed officially.
Driving stick is a dying art
If you are an avid consumer of American action movies and TV shows you would probably have encountered a scene where the actors have to get away in a car and got stuck because the driver “cannot drive stick”. It’s a pretty popular gag and there is even a sexist version where women, in general, are mocked for not being able to drive “stick”.
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Stick is an American colloquialism for driving manual vehicles. The gear lever in classic manual cars tends to look like a stick hence the moniker. In the US and indeed in a lot of countries, you can get your licence by simply taking an automatic car during the qualifying road test. Naturally, this makes driving stick a dying art.
Manual cars are a dying breed too
Just like the art of driving them, manual cars are a dying breed. Even in Zimbabwe thanks to the influx of Japanese second-hand vehicles, automatic cars now form two-thirds of the vehicles on our roads according to the government. It, therefore, makes sense that the VID will be taking this step. It’s long overdue if you ask me.
Even in Southern Africa, Namibia and South Africa are already issuing licences based on road tests conducted using an automatic vehicle. What only differs is the way each country issues the licence. In other countries, a distinction is made between a licence issued when you took an automatic vehicle and a licence issued when you drove a manual vehicle during the test. Others, like the US, will not even bother to make the distinction.
It all makes sense depending on each country’s circumstances. Licences should about making the trainee driver become aware of traffic and road rules and road safety instead of a laborious lecture on how to do a hill start and shift gears manually.
This might be moot anyway. These days tech companies everywhere are making a concerted effort to create self-driving vehicles. If we live long enough we will see, ex-Jap self-driving vehicles negotiating potholes in Harare one day soon.