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News State / Region New state law cracks down on teen drivers

Law may revoke license for serious moving violations.

Teenagers will have to be more responsible on North Carolina highways from now on, according to a new state law that may hold serious implications for many young drivers.

The new driving laws are more strict on Tar Heel teenagers, and aim to curtail dangerous driving habits by imposing severe punishments on new drivers who commit misdemeanor, or worse, criminal moving violations.

Last year, State Senator David Rouzer (R-12) sponsored Senate Bill 636, entitled “Modify Graduated Licensing Requirements,” which sought to crack down on reckless teenage driving. The bill quickly passed the legislature and was later signed by Governor Beverly Perdue in June.

According to The Winston-Salem Journal, 50 drivers in North Carolina ages 16-19 were killed in car crashes last year. The new law, which took effect on Jan. 1, should make new teenage drivers think twice about putting the pedal to the metal, and hopefully promote safer transportation throughout the state. The bill passed with bipartisan support, and a large majority of state lawmakers believe the law will save lives.

The law states that any teenager with a limited learner’s permit or provisional driver’s license issued by the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles (NCDMV) who is caught speeding 15 mph over the speed limit, or driving more than 80 mph, could be arrested and have their license revoked. Reckless driving, excessive speeding (listed above), and passing stopped school buses, among other criminal moving misdemeanor or felony violations, committed by teenage drivers with a learner’s permit or provisional license now mandates an arrest.

Law enforcement officials used to have full discretion in enforcing the laws and imposing punishments on teenage drivers in North Carolina, but the new regulations dismantles their discretion entirely. Now, if a teenager driving with a learner’s permit or provisional license is stopped and charged with any of the aforementioned offenses, they will be arrested and possibly lose their license for up to 30 days, if the revocation report holds up in court. The law enforcement official who makes the arrest must submit a revocation report and take the provisional licensee before a judicial official for an initial appearance. The judicial official will determine if the revocation report is justified and then make a ruling about revoking their license for 30 days.

According to NC State Trooper, Aaron Ammons, the vast majority of young drivers will not have any problems with the new law. Ammons patrols in district six, covering Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Macon, and Swain counties. “We haven’t seen any problems in our district,” he said. “Personally speaking and in talking with other troopers in our district, we haven’t had to enforce this law yet. We have 24 troopers who work this district and from what I’m aware of we haven’t had to arrest or revoke any teenagers’ license because of the new law,” stated Ammons.

Ammons thinks the district’s aggressive public information drive to get the message out about reckless driving is why Western North Carolina (WNC) has not experienced any problems yet. “Most kids realize the consequences of driving recklessly and we do a lot of work in schools throughout the district to inform new drivers about safe traveling methods and the consequences of driving dangerously,” he said. “But so far I just haven’t seen any problems at all,” he said. “Hopefully we won’t see any problems in the future either.”

Ammons said that patrol troopers must receive a briefing from supervisors about new laws taking effect. Thereafter, Troopers must sign a form upon receiving updates on new laws to ensure that they understand how to comply with the regulations, and how to legally and safely enforce what’s on the books. “It’s standard procedure to do so,” he said. “We went through all of the law’s requirements, all of the facets of it, trained on it, and then signed a form that showed we understood what the law meant,” he said.

The law also requires new teenage drivers to keep a driving log of at least 60 hours before obtaining their license. A licensed supervisor must be present in the vehicle in order for the final log to be approved by state officials. At least 10 hours of the required 60 must occur during nighttime hours, and no more than 10 hours of driving per week can be counted toward the 60-hour requirement.

The supervisor must sign the log and send it to the NCDMV when the teenager completes the mandated 60- hour log. Following the NCDMV’s approval, a full license will be given to the teen. If NCDMV officials believe the log was forged, the limited learner’s permit holder is required to complete a new driving log with the same requirements, and will not be eligible to receive a limited provisional license for six months.

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