How to Get — and Keep — a Learner Permit for a Teen Driver in North Carolina

North Carolina Learner Permits: Teens with car

The state legislature and Department of Transportation (NCDOT), through the Division of Motor Vehicles (NCDMV), regulate issuance of all driver licenses in North Carolina. Individuals over age 18 may apply for either a standard Driver License or standard Learner Permit by meeting specific requirements. In contrast, for teen drivers, the state has a comprehensive program providing the education and experience to ensure that young drivers will be able to drive responsibly before they are permitted to drive without supervision.

North Carolina’s Graduated Licensing Process for Teens

For teens between the ages of 15 to 18, North Carolina has a multi-tiered or graduated licensing process. The system has three levels and strict requirements for attaining each one:

  • Level One: Limited Learner Permit
  • Level Two: Limited Provisional License
  • Level Three: Full Provisional License

Limited Learner Permit

Individuals can sign up for driver education classes at age 14½, either at school or at a commercial driver training school. At age 15 and on completion of the classes, the person can begin the process for a driver license by applying for a Limited Learner Permit. The process is the same for everyone between the ages of 15 and 18.

To begin the process, the person submits a written application with required documents, which include:

  • two forms of identification
  • proof of social security
  • proof of residency
  • Driving Eligibility Certificate, for persons who have not graduated from high school or received a GED
  • Driver Education Certificate

To receive a Driving Eligibility Certificate, a person must be between the ages of 15 and 18. In addition, the individual must:

  • be currently enrolled in school and making progress toward a high school diploma or
  • show that not receiving a driver license will cause substantial hardship on the person or his or her family or
  • show that the person is unable to make progress toward obtaining a high school diploma or GED

A person who meets one of these requirements and completes driver education classes can apply to his or her school for an eligibility certificate. An individual is disqualified from receiving an eligibility certificate for a period of time if he or she has been:

  • expelled
  • suspended or assigned to an alternative educational setting for more than 10 consecutive days for possession alcohol, drugs, or weapons on school property
  • disciplined for assaulting school personnel

At least one “responsible supervisor” must sign the learner permit application. A responsible supervisor is a parent, legal guardian, grandparent, or an adult approved by a parent or guardian who has been a licensed driver for more than five years.

The applicant must also pass written, sign, and vision tests before the Limited Learner Permit will be issued.

Restrictions of a Limited Learner Permit

There are a number of restrictions that apply to a driver who has a Limited Learner Permit:

  • The permit holder may only drive when a sober responsible supervisor is seated next to the driver.
  • For the first six months, the permit holder may only drive between 5 am and 9 pm.
  • After six months, the permit holder may drive at any time.
  • The permit holder is prohibited from using a mobile phone or other technology associated with a mobile phone while driving.

Violations of the first two restrictions can result in misdemeanor charge. Using a mobile phone or related device is punishable by a fine of $25.

Limited Provisional License

While driving with a Limited Learner Permit, the driver must maintain a detailed driving log. To apply for the next level, a Limited Provisional License, the log must show least 60 hours of driving time. At least 10 hours must be at night, and no more than 10 hours per week will count toward the 60-hour requirement.

After the permit holder turns age 16 and has driven with a Limited Learner Permit for at least 12 months, he or she may apply for a Limited Provisional License. The requirements for advancing to Level Two are:

  • Passing a road test
  • Showing proof of liability insurance coverage
  • Having no convictions of moving violations or seat belt/mobile phone violations within the preceding six months
  • Submitting the required driving log

A Limited Provisional License permits the holder to drive unsupervised between the hours of 5 am and 9 pm or when driving directly to or from work or for volunteer fire, rescue, or emergency service. The prohibition on mobile phone use continues, and the driver also may not carry more than one passenger under 21 years old when driving unsupervised.

Full Provisional License

The third level, a Full Provisional License, permits the holder to drive unsupervised at any time. An individual may apply for the license after driving with a Limited Provisional License for six months without convictions of moving or seat belt/mobile phone violations within the preceding six months. The license continues the restriction prohibiting mobile phone use while driving on public vehicular areas.

After reaching the age of 18 years, an individual may apply for a standard Driver License.

Teen Driver Restrictions — “Lose Control, Lose License”

For any person under 18 years old, the driver will face license or permit suspension if:

  • DMV receives notice from a school that the driver is no longer eligible for a Driving Eligibility Certificate for any reason, including withdrawal from school.
  • The driver receives a suspension or is assigned to an alternative educational setting due to disciplinary action for more than 10 consecutive days.

The suspension lasts for 12 months or until a Driving Eligibility Certificate is obtained. In the North Carolina statutes, this provision is entitled, "Lose Control; Lose License."

The Twiford Law Firm — Serving Northeastern North Carolina

The Twiford Law Firm, P.C. stands ready to help with all your legal needs, including driver license issues and traffic violations. With offices in Elizabeth City and Moyock, we serve clients in multiple counties, including Camden, Chowan, Currituck, Dare, Gates, Hyde, Pasquotank, Perquimans, and Tyrrell. Contact us today at 252-338-4151 or 252-435-2811 to schedule an initial consultation.

Categories: Criminal Defense