'So excited': Teen drivers celebrate law change that allows them to get driver's license sooner

Akilah Davis Image
Monday, May 8, 2023
New law makes it easier for teens to get NC driver's license
The new driving law across North Carolina makes changes to how long teenagers are required to have their learner's permit before applying for the next level.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- A new driving law goes into effect across North Carolina making changes to how long teenagers are required to have their learner's permit before applying for a limited provisional driver's license.

A bill that Governor Cooper declined to sign, citing safety concerns, went into effect officially on Saturday, but Monday is the first day DMV locations have been open since the bill became law.

"I'm so excited. I'm excited to drive my friends around and go after school somewhere," said Jacklyn Dauler. "It'll take a lot of pressure off my parents and mom for having to drive me around places."

Jacklyn Dauler was one of the many teens in line at DMV's across the Triangle Monday morning.

According to NC Teen Driver, inexperience is the primary reason for teen driver crashes. The Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) was enacted in 1997, which required new drivers to use a permit for one year before getting their license. Once it became law, 16-year-old driver crashes across the state declined by 38%. Deadly crashes declined by 46%.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, lawmakers shorted the time a new driver had to have a driver's Level 1 permit before getting their Level 2 license from 12 months to six months. That pandemic rule change expired earlier this year, leaving many teens and their parents confused and upset.

"We calculated that 18,000-20,000 teen drivers were caught in a lurch," said Wayne Goodwin, North Carolina DMV Commissioner. "Please be patient with us because there's a backlog of teen drivers that are now wanting to take advantage of the new law. We're going to help every one of them."

That's what teens like Jacklyn are hoping for.

"I'm so ready. More than you know," she said.

The new law cuts down on the amount of time teen drivers have to have a learner's permit before applying for their level 2 license .

Under the new law, North Carolina drivers who have had their permit for at least six months and have 60 hours of driving time will be able to apply for their level 2 license, which allows unsupervised driving from 5 a.m. - 9 p.m. with some other restrictions.

Beginning in 2024 the time driver's must have their level 1 permit will increase to nine months.

Hearts are breaking at DMV offices across the state as thousands of teen drivers find themselves caught in a pandemic pipeline preventing them from getting a driver's license.

According to the DMV, appointments could take several weeks to months. They recommend walk-ins for drivers. They're also planning to open up Saturdays as a walk-in day to meet the need.