Each gear on a car having a manual transmission offers a specific acceleration level to the driver. The lower the gear, the greater amount of acceleration available for use. If we imagine each gear setting as a distinct configuration of the automobile allowing it to perform work (e.g., accelerate out of a hazardous traffic setting) we can say each gear setting impacts the car’s potential energy. Taking this idea further, we can also say that a car in first gear offers more potential energy than a car in fifth gear.
Unfortunately, my car lacked first and second gear for a few days due to a shifting cable malfunction. I could accelerate out of a stopped position in third gear, but it took awhile. Once going, I could continue the slow acceleration to build up kinetic energy in the form of my moving vehicle.
We need energy to effectively respond to traffic conditions while driving, and my car offered only low potential energy options. So I started driving extremely fast to store high kinetic energy. This allowed me to change speed rapidly if I needed to by applying the brakes. The approach worked very well for freeway driving, particularly when entering from on-ramps.
The take-home message: Compensate for your shortcomings by speeding.