LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - What was once considered a rite of passage for 16-year-olds everywhere may now NOT be as important: getting that coveted driver's license.
"I hear from parents, parents tell me they just about have to make their kids take driver's education these days," said Guyla Carlton, owner of Carlton Driving School.
And a new national study by the University of Michigan backs that up. According to their findings – over 30 years ago in 1983 about 46 percent of 16-year-olds had their licenses – that number fell to just 24 percent in 2014.
Carlton, who owns a driving school in Lufkin, believes while many factors contribute to those decreased percentages the economy may high on the list.
"With layoffs of major industries, not just jobs that pay minimum wage, but wages where families can actually earn a living, parents can earn a living. When that's not there, something's got to go and I think that's just part of what's happening," Carlton said.
She's also found first-hand the desire for some teens to roam the open roads alone simply isn't there.
"Kids tell me this; they'd rather have their parent chauffeur them around so they can remain in the backseat being on their cell phones, you know, texting with their friends, listening to music, whatever," Carlton said.
Carlton says her concern lies with young adults who wait until 18 or older to pursue a driver's license. They bypass crucial hours of classroom instruction, meaning they may be less likely to learn essential skills to keep you and me safe on the roads.
"Once you turn 18, the behind-the-wheel test is no longer required anymore and the six hours is minimum but sure, with less and less kids taking the class as a teen and waiting until they turn 18 of course they know less," Carlton said.