North Carolina’s Teen Driver’s License and Insurance Requirements

Learn about the requirements for teens to obtain a driver’s license in North Carolina and what insurance is required.

North Carolina uses a graduated license system to license teen drivers via a limited learner’s permit, limited provisional license, and full provisional license. Here are the basics of how this system works and the various requirements teen drivers must abide by.

Level 1 Limited Learner’s Permit

At 15 years old, a person can submit an application (along with the application fee and proof of identification) to the local Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to obtain a level 1 limited learner’s permit. The application must be signed by a parent or guardian who will be supervising the youth’s driving. The applicant must pass the vision test as well as a test covering local traffic signs and traffic laws. A certificate of completion of an approved driver’s education course and a driving eligibility certificate are also required.

The driving eligibility certificate is a form signed by the school’s principal or administrator indicating that the teen is enrolled and progressing towards graduation. The school can revoke this certificate due to the student’s conduct, which would result in revocation of the student’s license or permit for one year, until age 18, or until the certificate is reinstated. Exemptions exist for homeschooled teens and diploma and GED holders.

An instructional permit allows the holder to operate a vehicle while a supervising driver is in the front passenger seat. A supervising driver must be licensed for at least five years and can be a parent, guardian, or a person authorized by the parent or guardian to supervise. For the first six months, the permit holder isn’t allowed to drive between the hours of 9 p.m. and 5 a.m.

Level 2 Limited Provisional License

Teens who are 16 years old and have held an instructional permit for at least 12 months are eligible to apply for a provisional license. To obtain the provisional license, the teen must complete and pass the road test administered by the DMV and have no moving violation within the last six months. Applicants must also show completion of 60 hours of supervised driving time (ten of which must have been at night) and hold a driving eligibility certificate.

The limited provisional license allows the motorist to drive without an adult anywhere from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. However, between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m., the driver must be supervised by a parent or be traveling to or from work or a volunteer emergency response organization.

Limited provisional license holders may carry only one non-family member passenger who’s under the age of 21 unless accompanied by a supervising driver. If a family-member passenger is under 21 years old, no non-family member passengers under 21 years old are permitted in the vehicle.

Level 3 Full Provisional License

After holding a provisional license for at least six months without any moving violations, a driver can apply for a level 3 full provisional license. To obtain the license, the teen must submit a driving log signed by the supervising driver showing 12 hours of supervised driving (with at least six nighttime hours).

For all teen license levels, cellphone use while driving is prohibited and all passengers must wear seatbelts.

Violations

A violation of the time restrictions or the supervision requirements is considered driving without a license, punishable by fines and possible jail time. Using a cellphone while driving carries a $25 fine. All other restriction violations are infractions.

A provisional license can be suspended for up to 30 days if the holder has two moving violations within a year. Three moving violations in a year can lead to a maximum 90-day suspension and four violations in a year can lead to a maximum six-month license suspension. The officer is permitted to issue a revocation report, revoking the driver’s license at the time of the citation, without having to wait for a conviction.

For a DWI or chemical test refusal, the driver’s provisional license or permit will be permanently revoked.

Insurance

Before any North Carolina resident can obtain a driver’s license or lawfully operate a vehicle, the vehicle must be properly insured. North Carolina requires a minimum liability insurance policy of at least $30,000 bodily injury per person, $60,000 bodily injury per accident, and $25,000 property damage per accident.

Civil. Any time the DMV is notified that an insurance policy has been terminated or that a person was operating a vehicle without insurance, it will issue a letter requesting proof of insurance or surrender of the vehicle’s registration. If no proof of insurance is shown, the vehicle’s registration will be suspended until valid proof of insurance is shown. Obtaining insurance—even if not valid at the time of the letter—can prevent registration revocation but a minimum 30-day revocation is required for any driving-without-insurance conviction.

The driver will be assessed a civil penalty depending on the number of prior offenses in the last three years. Within a three year period, a first offense is a $50 fine, a second is a $100 fine, and a third is a $150 fine.

Criminal. Driving without proof of insurance is also a class 3 misdemeanor punishable by one to 20 days in jail and a fine of up to $200.

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