With three stages like most graduated licensing systems in the US, North Carolina does not allow a “full adult license” until you reach the age of 18. Graduated licensing has been proven to lower fatality rates among those learning to drive, especially those that are young.
Teenage Drivers Under 18
Limited Learner Permit, 15 years old
In order to get your Limited Learner Permit in North Carolina you need to finish a couple pre-qualifying steps before attending a NCDOT office in person. First you will need to get your required documents ready for the application including identification, proof of social security and Driving Eligibility Certificate and Driver Education Certificate. In North Carolina you need to be enrolled in a Driver’s Education course by an approved state school and have a certificate that proves your attendance at school.
Next you will need to have a named responsible supervisor, generally a parent, grandparent, or approved guardian that has a license, been licensed for 5 years and is willing to sit beside you during this period. Your Limited Learner Permit is restricted to only driving with a supervisory adult and during the first six months only during the day time. You will also need to pass a vision, signs and written knowledge test before receiving your permit. You are also not permitted to use a cell phone device or telephone assistive technology like vehicle Bluetooth in association with a cell phone at all for this permit level.
Limited Provisional License, 16 years
After having kept your Learner Permit for a minimum of 12 months, being at least 16 years old, have passed a road skills test, proven proof of insurance coverage and completed a driving log you may apply for this permit. It allows you to drive unsupervised during the hours of 5am to 9pm. During other times you can drive unsupervised when going to and from home and work or for an emergency.
To obtain this license you must also have had no convictions for moving violations, seat belt infractions or telephone use infractions within the past six months. You must not have more than 1 other passenger in the vehicle when driving unsupervised that is under 21 years old. The telephone restrictions remain in place for this license.
Full Provisional License, 16 years, 6 months old
North Carolina distinguishes between teenage drivers under 18 years old with a Full Provisional License and a full adult license that is granted at 18 years old. The full provisional license can be gained after having your Limited Provisional license for at least 6 months with no convictions for the prior 6 months. This license allows you to drive at any time unsupervised but maintains the cell phone ban use while driving, including assistive technologies for cell phones in vehicles.
For teens under 18 you can also lose your license if you are suspended from school or drop out of school before you are 18 years of age.
Adult Drivers & Out of State
Those over 18 years of age can apply for their Class C license the one needed by adults to drive most standard vehicles without towing abilities. Teenagers that have gone through GDL will receive this license after they turn 18 years old. If you are over 18 years old you can opt to take the tests for a full license or for the learner permit to give yourself time to pass the road skills test needed for the full license. As long as you pass the vision, written, signs and road skills tests you can qualify for a full Class C license in North Carolina.
If you are going to be in North Carolina for more than 60 days and operating a motor vehicle you will need to surrender your driver’s license and apply for one from the NCDOT. Generally if you are licensed in another state you will only need to take the vision and road signs test to receive a North Carolina license.