It's a rite of passage for teenagers: taking driver's education classes so they can one day get their license and sit confidently behind the wheel.
"It gives me a sense of independence and control of something," says 14-year-old Kaitlyn Meeks. "It makes me feel grown up."
The program used to be free, but now driver's ed is more expensive than ever for students in our state. Over the past few years, the General Assembly has consistently chipped away millions from its funding.
"Driver's ed, along with a lot of things in education, seems to have a target on its back," says Mark Smith, director of the North Carolina Driving School in Winterville.
The latest budget cut another $1.7 million. That means resources like technology and textbooks are limited, and many school systems are now choosing to charge students as much as $55 for the course.
"At some point, it becomes a deterrent," says Ron Butler, the Pitt County driver's education coordinator. "Can you have that child properly trained or do you delay them getting a driver's license?"
Butler says Pitt County has managed to keep its driver's education fees capped at $40 this year.
But instructor Marcus Whichard says he doesn't know how much longer that will last if the cuts continue.
"A lot of them don't have the money," Whichard says. "They're on constraints right now with their own budgets and a lot of them cannot truly afford just that little bit. A lot of them can't afford lunch money."
Butler says at this rate, he predicts our state is moving closer to privatizing the program.
Authorities are expected to release the results of autopsies on the two bodies recovered from the fiery crash that killed "Fast & Furious" actor Paul Walker and his friend.
"Fast & Furious" star Paul Walker was killed by injuries from both the impact and subsequent fire when the Porsche his friend was driving smashed into a light pole and tree, according to an autopsy released Wednesday.