RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A bill passed by the North Carolina General Assembly would eventually change the mandatory supervised driving period for teens to nine months, less time than has been set in state law, but longer than a temporary relaxation of the learner’s permit rule first in effect during the pandemic.
North Carolina teens can get a learner’s permit at age 15, but have to complete 60 hours of supervised driving by an adult — usually a parent — and be age 16 before they can drive by themselves with what’s called a limited provisional license. They also have to pass a road test.
The new legislation now heading to Gov. Roy Cooper’s desk still would require the child be at least 16 to advance to the limited license. But it would eventually allow minors to complete the requirements and advance after just nine months. Historically, state law has required a 12-month wait.
“This is not decreasing the amount of hours that they have to drive, but it is shortening the time period,” said Rep. Jeff McNeely, an Iredell County Republican, said during the House floor debate. He said it should also free up more young people to work because they’ll be able to drive themselves to and from jobs sooner.
The proposed measure extends and modifies a state law approved during the COVID-19 pandemic to address delayed driver’s education classes. Legislators say they’re still receiving complaints from parents whose children are trying to get to the next level of driving.
The new legislation would reinstate a six-month minimum that expired at the end of 2022 for the rest of 2023 before settling the time at nine months.
The bill gained final approval Thursday with a 92-15 vote in the House after the chamber rejected amendments from Rep. Carolyn Logan, a Mecklenburg County Democrat and retired state trooper.
She wanted to ultimately keep a 12-month training period, arguing that children need the extra time to learn a very serious skill like driving.
“Every month can make a difference,” Logan told colleagues. “I’m asking you to think about your children and other people out there they’ll be driving with.”
The bill, which already was approved by the Senate last month, also would slightly ease passenger constraints for a limited provisional licensee so that the person could drive someone unrelated to them to and from school.
Cooper can sign the bill, veto it, or allow the bill to become law without his signature.