Funny you should mention that.
When I was growing up, my father seemed to have the complete opposite idea of almost everyone in society. He believed that those who just passed their license should drive fast and powerful cars. I sure didn't get it at the time, and I thought it was a crazy idea, even though I thought it would be cool if he meant it. And happen it did, after I passed my test he gave me a 82 Porsche, and now, I realise exactly what he meant.
To begin with, most kids go through a phase of not taking a car seriously. They throw it around, mess about, etc... like a toy. They take risks because they feel safe, and because they don't quite realise what they are operating. They are very insulated, surrounded by noise insulation, airbags, and all sorts of gadgets and computers "taking care of things". However, this car was different, completely different to the car I did my test and lessons in (which was a bog standard Ford hatchback from the driving school).
That car instilled a respect into me of what exactly a car is capable of. It has no airbags, no traction control, no ABS, no power steering. It had nothing to make you feel safe. You and you alone were in charge of what happened. The car did its best to connect you with the road, and it worked. I felt part of the car, and the road it was on when you were driving. I remember the first time as a new driver. Like most kids, I didn't take it seriously either. Once I floored it for kicks, and the car slammed my back into the seat as the body twisted and the car took off. That was the last time I did that for years. I had never felt that before, and the power actually scared me, as I didn't feel like I had the ability to control it. I realised that I would have to become a far better driver before I could attempt that again.
No ABS meant I had to learn how to brake properly, and keep enough distance to not hit things. It meant I had to pay attention to the road surface and how much grip it had at all times (which was surprisingly easy, as you could feel it through the steering wheel).
No traction control meant that I had to learn how to control the throttle and gear shifting, so as not to wheelspin, or not to lose traction in corners/rain/snow/ice/etc...
It also meant that I pay a lot of attention to the state of my tyres. When you don't have any ECU's managing the traction for you, you can feel when your tyres are getting worn out, or when they lose traction. I'm the only guy I know who does a pre-drive check before going anywhere.
All in all, when driving that car, you are driving it. It requires concentration on the act of driving, nothing less.
It never popped into my head to fiddle with my phone, or read a book/map, or anything else. I guess it is a similar thing to why some motorcyclists say everyone should ride a motorcycle for a year. You just don't get a chance to be distracted. I've had times when I can't even fiddle with the buttons on the radio, and that requires no looking away either.
I've now had that car for years, and I feel it made me a far better driver than if I had just continued driving modern cars.
Indeed when I do drive modern cars, I find myself hating the experience. So much is out of my control, so much "just happens". Initially this made me very on edge, I would even open the windows so I could hear what the car was doing with the road, as I had no other input. You are so isolated from the act of driving the car that you might as well put a blind fold on. I can see why people end up texting or doing other stuff when driving. Hell, even I found the experience mind numbingly boring, and I like driving! I also found it harder to keep awake/alert when doing long distance driving.
It seems modern cars are designed for people who hate driving, probably by people who hate driving. Everything is done to take the "driving" part away. I don't feel like a drive a modern car. I operate it instead. I have two pedals, stop and go, and I point it in the direction I want to go with the steering wheel. The car does the rest.
I can imagine if someone only ever drove modern cars, they would find it tedious and boring, and would want the car manufactures to automate even more of it. You end up in a feedback loop such as we are in, which will eventually end up with self driving cars, just because the majority don't know any better.
Not to say that everyone should be forced into doing the above, I'm sure there are people there who have absolutely no interest in driving a car for the pleasure of driving, but I do think that this is one of those places where we have automated too much away from the person who is supposed to be in control. We are in the dangerous "middle-ground" of car development, where we've automated so much away that getting distracted while driving is trivial, but not automated enough that the driver can be as distracted as they want without it being dangerous.