North Carolina Teen Driving Log Results in Fewer Deaths, More Violations

The numbers of teen driving deaths and injuries have fallen in North Carolina but moving violations are up since the General Assembly imposed new requirements on young drivers and their parents before teens can drive fully on their own, the Division of Motor Vehicles said.

The legislature directed DMV to study if a 2011 law that demands young people learning to drive fill out driving logs that confirm adult supervision in their cars is effective.

The law requires someone with a limited learner’s permit – at least age 15 – record 60 hours of driving over a year or longer with a parent or other supervising adult who drives before getting a provisional license that allows some unsupervised driving. Those drivers need an additional 12 hours behind the wheel with an adult in the car before obtaining a mostly unrestricted license they use until age 18.

The study found that the number of teen fatalities declined from 183 in 2010 to 114 in 2013, while injuries dropped from 22,116 to 19,415 during the same period, the report to the Joint Legislative Transportation Oversight Committee says.

About 100,000 students seek learner’s permits annually. The logs, which started in early 2012, are designed to ensure young drivers get significant training while driving before advancing to a fuller license.

“We think the study certainly shows that the 60-hour and 12-hour driving logs are having a good effect on our teen drivers,” DMV spokeswoman Marge Howell said Friday.

The same report found the number of active teen drivers cited for moving violations or for failing to wear seat belts rose from October 2009 through September 2013. The number of moving violations reached 5 percent of the total number of teen drivers for the year ending last Sept. 30, with most occurring while the teen was driving without supervision, DMV said.

The data suggest “that a greater focus should be placed on highway regulations in driver education programs,” the report said. Potential teen drivers must initially receive classroom training, usually through high schools. Knowledge and road tests also should measure the teenager’s awareness of traffic violations, crashes and penalties, according to DMV.

The transportation oversight committee could make recommendations based on the report for the full General Assembly to consider. DMV also has leeway to make changes to improve driver education, Howell said. The Department of Public Instruction is already taking more oversight over local driver’s ed programs.

DMV announced a program in December in which parents receive their own booklet designed to help them supervise their beginning drivers effectively, such as by driving in differing weather conditions, road patterns and traffic. Teen drivers in Guilford, Mecklenburg and Wake counties had the most crashes and violations, the report said.

The 2011 law also created a 30-day driving revocation for certain young motorists for violations such as impaired or reckless driving.