By John Trump
Carolina Journal News Service
RALEIGH — A bill temporarily shortening the length of time required for a driving learner’s permit was signed by Gov. Roy Cooper this week. Republican bill sponsors proposed Senate Bill 69 in response to the growing waiting list of new drivers seeking a spot in mandatory driver’s education classes after the state Division of Motor Vehicles and driving schools were shut down during COVID.
The backlog of students has created a wait of four to six months toward completing the driving portion of the program. The lengthy wait and likely learning loss between classroom instruction and actual driving experience have frustrated parents and students.
“My daughter took the classroom portion of driver’s ed in February of 2021, but she probably won’t actually get behind the wheel until August or September,” said one parent from North Raleigh. “We can’t let her drive with us, to get practice because the state regulations require her to get certified instruction with a school first, it’s a mess.”
The measure would maintain the requirement that a new driver complete 60 hours of supervised behind-the-wheel experience, in addition to classroom work and 30 hours of formal instruction, but that behind-the-wheel experience can occur over six months, rather than the previous 12 months.
The reduction in required months expires Dec. 31, 2021, at which point it would return to a 12-month requirement.
All other restrictions in the requirements for a limited learner’s permit remain the same; 10 hours of the 60 required must be at night, no more than 10 per week can be accrued, and a driver’s log must be submitted and signed by a supervising driver before the teen is granted a provisional license.
The bill sponsors are Sen. Vickie Sawyer, R-Iredell; Sen. Tom McGinnis, R-Scotland; Sen. Danny Britt, R-Robeson; Sen. Todd Johnson, R-Union. Governor Cooper signed the bill on Monday, May 24.