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Reducing accidents caused by inexperienced drivers

North Carolina teens have restricted driving privileges when first licensed. The goal of this approach is to give young drivers more time to practice skills while preventing accidents.

Residents in and around Charlotte, North Carolina, have to be on alert for reckless or negligent drivers at all times. This can include drunk drivers, fatigued truckers or other irresponsible drivers. In some cases, these irresponsible drivers are teenagers for whose immaturity and lack of driving experience can be a dangerous combination.

Concerns about the risks that teen drivers pose started a trend in 1996 in which states began enacting programs with graduated levels of privileges for teen drivers. By 2011, the National Institute of Health notes that all 50 states and the District of Columbia had such laws in place.

Studies from the NIH have shown that fatalities among teenagers in car accidents have dropped as much as 14 percent since Graduated Drivers’ License programs went into effect. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicates that a reduction between 20 and 50 percent has occurred for all vehicle accidents with 16- and 17-year old drivers.

How does a Graduated Drivers’ License program work?

The Governors Highway Safety Association explains that there are generally three phases involved in a GDL. In the first phase, a teen receives a learner’s permit. Next, a provisional driver’s license is issued with certain restrictions in place. Eventually, the teenager is granted full driving privileges.

What is the process for teen drivers in North Carolina?

In North Carolina, a learner’s permit can be obtained at age 15. A full, non-restricted license can be obtained when the driver reaches 16 years and six months of age. In the first permit phase, the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles outlines a requirement for supervised driving. A permitted teen may operate a vehicle between 5:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. only and must be accompanied by an approved driver who has had a license for five years or longer. This supervisor must ride in the passenger seat in the front of the vehicle with the teen.

After holding a permit for 12 months or longer and reaching the age of 16, a teen can apply for a limited provisional license. There remains a restriction on driving after 9:00 p.m. at night or before 5:00 a.m. in the morning. In addition, newly licensed teens may have only one passenger 20 years of age or younger at a time.

After six months of driving with a limited provisional license, teens may receive a full license assuming they have not received any citations or violated any driving laws. At this point, all restrictions regarding passenger limits and driving times are removed from the teen driver.

What should accident victims do?

While GDL programs have reduced the number of accidents caused by teen drivers, they have not eliminated all such crashes. Anyone involved in a wreck in which the negligence of a teen driver could have been a factor should contact an attorney promptly.