What is the Driving Age in North Carolina?

North Carolina requires drivers to be 16 to 17 years old in order to obtain either a limited or full provisional driver’s license.
Written by Liz Jenson
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
Drivers ages 15 to 17 in North Carolina will need to apply for a learner’s permit as part of the graduated licensing program. They can get then their graduated license at 16 to 17.
Nothing is quite as exciting as getting your driver’s license for the first time! But since each state has different age restriction laws, it can be difficult to know when exactly you’ll be eligible to drive.
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What is the driving age in North Carolina?

In North Carolina, you can get your limited provisional driving license or your graduated driving license at age 16 to 17. However, you will need to complete the graduated licensing program if you’re under 18 years old.
MORE: How to get cheap car insurance for young drivers

What is graduated licensing in North Carolina?

According to the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(CDC), motor vehicle accidents are among the top causes of death for young drivers. In an attempt to prevent further endangering new drivers, North Carolina has implemented a graduated licensing program, which requires teens to go through a few extra steps before they can obtain their full driving license.
North Carolina’s graduated licensing program has three stages:
  • The learner’s permit: Supervised driving only.
  • The limited provisional license: Limited unsupervised driving.
  • The graduated license: Unlimited unsupervised driving under North Carolina law.
The hope of this program is that, by further restricting driving privileges until a teenager has more experience behind the wheel, the state will be able to reduce the number of motor vehicle accidents involving young, inexperienced drivers.

How to get your learner’s permit in North Carolina

The first step in North Carolina’s graduated licensing program is getting your learner’s permit.
There are a few requirements to get your learner’s permit in North Carolina:
  • You must be between 15 and 17 years old.
  • Provide a Driver’s Eligibility Certificate from your high school. This will serve as evidence that you are currently enrolled in school and are completing your academic requirements successfully.
  • Possess a ​​
    Driver's Education Certificate
    , which will certify that you have completed a driver’s education program. You may enroll in one of these programs through your high school starting at age 14 1/2, and you must complete 30 hours of classroom time and at least six hours of instruction behind the wheel before you receive the certificate. If you haven’t enrolled in driver’s education yet, you’ll need to do so before you can get your learner’s permit.
  • Pass a vision test.
  • Pass a written exam and a road sign exam. Your driver’s education course should prepare you for these two tests.
  • Pay the $21.50 fee.
Once you obtain your learner’s permit, you’ll be allowed to drive from 5:00 AM to 9:00 PM with a qualified supervising driver. Your supervising driver must be someone who has had their graduated license for at least five years, and they must be seated in the front seat next to you at all times.
After you’ve had your permit for six months, you’ll be able to drive at any time of day, provided that you still have your supervising driver in the car with you.
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How to get your limited provisional driver’s license in North Carolina

If you’re between 16 and 17 years old and you’ve had your learner’s permit for at least six months, you might be qualified for a limited provisional driver’s license.
Requirements for your limited provisional license include:
  • Completing at least 60 logged hours of driving time.
  • Not having any moving violations or
    seat belt
    /mobile phone infractions on your record for the last six months.
  • Providing proof of
    liability coverage
    as required by the state.
  • Paying the $21.50 fee.
You’ll have more driving freedom once you get your limited provisional license, but there will still be some restrictions in place. If you’re driving unsupervised, for example, you’re limited to having one passenger under 21 in the car with you unless your passengers are members of the same household as you (for example, your siblings, your spouse, or your children).
You’ll also only be able to drive unsupervised from 5:00 AM to 9:00 PM. If you need to drive outside of these hours, a qualified supervising driver is required to be in the car with you.

How to get your graduated license in North Carolina

After you’ve held your limited provisional license for at least six months, you’ll be qualified for a graduated license.
The requirements for a graduated license are as follows:
  • Have no convictions of moving violations or seat belt/mobile phone infractions within the last six months.
  • Complete at least 12 logged driving hours.
  • Pass a road test, which you’ll need to schedule with your local DMV.
If you’re over 18, though, it’s possible that your DMV will allow you to skip the second step in the licensing procedure and will grant you a graduated license. To learn whether or not this is a possibility for you, you’ll need to contact your local DMV office for more information about licensing requirements for adults.

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