Teen drivers in North Carolina have to complete a graduated licensing program, which includes driver's education, restrictions on time of driving, number of passengers and cell phone use.
The highway patrol reports the teen driver in Thursday's tragic crash had a full provisional license, with no driving curfew or restrictions on the number of passengers in the vehicle. That means the driver had successfully completed the first several steps in North Carolina's graduated licensing program.
Under the program, teenagers in North Carolina can take driver's education when they are 14 and a half years old. All teenagers must pass a driver's education course.
At age 15, they can apply for a Level One Limited Learner's Permit.
With the permit, teens can drive between 5:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. for the first six months, with adult supervision by a driver who has had their license for at least five years. No cell phone use is allowed, except in an emergency. For the second six months, the teen can drive any time with adult supervision.
Once a teen driver completes 12 months of driving with permit, he or she can then apply for the next license, which is a Level Two Limited Provisional License. The teen can't apply if he or she has had any moving convictions within the 12-month period, or any cell phone violations or seat belt violations within the past six months.
To get the provisional license, the teen must pass a road skills test. Once that is successfully completed, the teen may drive without supervision between 5:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. A teen can drive without supervision outside that window if they work or volunteer for emergency services. A teen can also drive outside that window for any other reason with adult supervision.
When an adult supervisor is not in the vehicle, only one passenger younger than 21 can be in the vehicle. There are some exceptions to this rule. According to the NC DMV, this "limit does not apply to passengers who are members of the license holder’s immediate family or whose primary residence is the same household as the license holder. However, if a family member or member of the same household as the license holder who is younger than 21 years of age is a passenger in the vehicle, no other passengers under 21 years of age who are not members of the license holder’s immediate family or members of the license holder’s household may be in the vehicle."
Cell phone use is still prohibited, except in an emergency.
After six months with a Level Two Provisional License, with no convictions for moving vehicle violations, seat belt violations or cell phone violations, the driver can apply for a Level Three Full Provisional License.
With this license, there are no restrictions about time of driving, adult supervision and number of passengers. No cell phone use by a driver under the age of 18 is permitted, except in an emergency.
The DMV also has a rule called "Lose Control, Lose Your License."
The DMV will suspend a teenager's license if the student receives a suspension of more than 10 consecutive days or is assigned to an alternative school for more than 10 consecutive days because of discipline problems.
Once a driver turns 18, he or she then obtains a regular driver's license.