Keeping new drivers safe on the road

Graduated drivers' licenses have been proven to reduce the number of fatal crashes involving teenage drivers, making them popular in North Carolina.

For parents in North Carolina, the safety of their children is always a priority. At very young ages, this can be easier when kids are in their parents' control more fully. As children grow up, they require greater freedoms including the ability to drive motor vehicles. While to many people, getting a driver's license is something of a rite of passage, it also presents some serious dangers.

Concerns about accidents caused by immature and inexperienced drivers on the road were real. According to the National Institute of Health, these concerns led all 50 states and the District of Columbia to enact new rules surrounding teenage driving privileges between 1996 and 2011. NIH studies indicate that a drop in teenage fatalities has been seen by up to 14 percent due to these rules, known as Graduated Drivers' Licenses.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration asserts that all accidents involving 16- and 17-year-olds have dropped between 20 and 50 percent due to GDL programs. With these license structures, national standards for educating new drivers have been created with the intent to improve safety and reduce accidents.

What is a GDL?

The Governors Highway Safety Association notes that Graduated Drivers' License programs are generally comprised of three stages. The first is the learner phase followed by an intermediate phase. Eventually full driving privileges are granted. In North Carolina, the learner phase can begin at age 15 and full privileges can be received by age 16 and one-half.

What is North Carolina's GDL system?

According to the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles, one component of the state's GDL program is a requirement for supervised driving. This can be done by a parent, grandparent, legal guardian or other adult approved by the parent or guardian. The supervising driver must have been licensed for at least five years and ride in the front passenger seat of the vehicle.

The first step to a full license in North Carolina is the limited learner permit which can be obtained at 15 years of age. All driving with a permit must be supervised and cannot happen between 9:00 at night and 5:00 in the morning.

The second step is the limited provisional license which can be obtained at 16 years of age or after a limited learner permit has been held for at least 12 months. Nighttime driving restrictions remain in place and teens can have a maximum of one passenger under the age of 21 while driving.

After holding a limited provisional license for at least six months and not receiving any violations, a full provisional license can be obtained. There are no restrictions on passengers or driving at night any longer.

The one restriction that remains for all three phases is the ban on any use of mobile phones or other technology while driving.

Important information for teens and parents

Keeping teenagers safe is important. Certainly a graduated approach can help but sometimes accidents may happen and they may not always be caused by the teen driver involved. At the same time, some teenagers or their parents may choose not to follow the guidelines of the program. When an accident happens due to the negligence of someone else, the help of an attorney is recommended.