Lake Highlands’ most popular driving school shut its doors without warning October 3, leaving hundreds of students and their parents stranded. Automatic Driving School, located at Skillman and Audelia near Public Storage, has taught thousands of LHHS students to drive, including my own.

Owners of the school were seen removing furniture from the building late at night, according to a story in today’s Dallas Morning News, and locations in Mesquite, Rockwall, and Richardson have also locked their doors. In addition to sitting in class and learning driving rules, students at Automatic spend weeks driving around town, practicing their skills in various situations with teachers in the car with them. Parents pay in advance for the classes and for “drive times,” and they rely on the school to provide documentation to the Texas Department of Public Safety to enable students to get their drivers license and get on the road. Most who don’t use Automatic opt for "Drivers Ed in a Box," a series of on-line lessons followed by practice on the road supervised by mom and dad.

Though they seemed a little disorganized, the folks running the school and teaching classes were convenient for parents and popular with kids (my boys were partial to Earl and the teacher they called “Coach.”) The only complaints I’ve heard were teachers who occasionally didn’t show up and difficulty getting drive times because there were more students than slots. Kids liked the laid-back atmosphere and the fact that instructors were willing to stop for fast food while tooling around town. With most classes full to capacity, many parents say they never suspected Automatic would go out of business. Parents of students already enrolled should receive letters of progress and/or completion from the Texas Education Agency by mail.