Licensing Process

To get your driver’s license in North Carolina, you’ll move through three licensing stages. As you progress, you’ll also need your parents’ permission at each step.

Limited Learner’s Permit

When you turn 15, you may apply for a limited learner’s permit. You must have completed a state-approved driver education course. You and a parent or guardian need to visit your local Department of Motor Vehicle’s licensing office and bring two forms of identification, at least one of which reflects your full name, including your middle name. AAA recommends you bring a state-certified copy of your birth certificate. Once you pass the written driver’s knowledge test and a vision test, you’ll be given your limited learner’s permit.

A limited learner’s permit lets you drive from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. with a supervising licensed driver. A supervising licensed driver must be your parent, grandparent, or guardian or a responsible adult approved by your parent or guardian. A supervising driver must have a current driver’s license and have been licensed to drive for at least 5 years. The learner’s permit lets you practice driving while learning from an experienced adult driver who must be seated next to you.  After six months with your limited learner’s permit you are permitted to drive at any time with a supervising licensed driver (the night limit is removed). Once you have practiced driving for at least 12 months with a supervising driver and have had no convictions for motor vehicle violations or seat belt/mobile telephone infractions in the preceding 6 months, you are then allowed to get a limited provisional license.

Limited Provisional License

When you turn 16 and have had your limited learner’s permit for at least 12 months, you can go to DMV to take the driving test. Pass the test, and you’ll receive your limited provisional license. Make sure a parent comes with you to sign the application form or get your parent’s notarized signature on the form ahead of time.

With a limited provisional license, you’re allowed to drive without a parent, but you must follow certain rules to help keep you safe. You may not drive between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. — some of the riskiest driving hours for all drivers and especially teens. Exceptions are granted for travel to and from work, or any volunteer fire, rescue or EMS (emergency medical service) service. You may not drive with more than one passenger under age 21 at this level. These passenger restrictions do not apply to passengers who are immediate family. Night and passenger limits do not apply if you have a supervising driver seated next to you. You and all of your passengers must wear seat belts while you’re driving. You must keep this license for at least 6 months and have had no convictions for motor vehicle violations or seat belt/mobile telephone infractions in the preceding six months to advance to the next stage.

Full License

To get a full provisional license you must have completed both the limited learner’s permit and limited provisional license levels. At this stage you are allowed to drive unsupervised without night or passenger limits. Without driver education, you cannot get an unrestricted license until age 18.

Now is a good time to set up a parent-teen driving agreement to help you and your parents establish expectations related to both their rules and those of the state.

Licensing Authority

The North Carolina Department of Transportation’s Division of Motor Vehicles, is in charge of licensing for all drivers in the state. The DMV:

  • Conducts the written exam and road test for your learner’s license and intermediate license.
  • Provides study materials to help you get ready for the exams.
  • Keeps track of your license status and can suspend your license if you get too many tickets, don’t keep insurance on your car or commit other violations.
  • Parent-Teen Driving Agreement – Signing a formal agreement with your parents helps in multiple ways.
  • Driver-ZED – Offered by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, Driver-ZED is a computer-based program to help you practice driving on your PC.