RALEIGH — The General Assembly told parents and teens Wednesday they can wait until next year to worry about tough new provisions in the state's graduated licensing program for young drivers.
There is no longer a threat that thousands of teens must delay getting their licenses because of a new requirement for signed logs documenting 60 hours of adult-supervised driving.
The driving log rule, originally to take effect Oct. 1, was postponed for 14 months.
"That's exactly what we were looking for, so I'm very pleased," said Bob Goudreau of Cary, who had lobbied legislators to give parents more time.
His daughter, Christina, is one of 110,000 North Carolina teens now driving with learner's permits. She hopes to get her provisional license in October, after her 16th birthday.
The reprieves were part of a technical corrections bill adopted Wednesday to make changes in several unrelated areas of state law.
The legislative action came a day after a national medical study affirmed that graduated licensing programs in North Carolina and other states have reduced fatal crashes for 16-year-old drivers.
A law enacted in June added the 60-hour log to the requirements for teens who want to move up from the learner's permit, where driving is tightly restricted, to the expanded privileges that come with the limited provisional license.
The new legislation, now awaiting Gov. Bev Perdue's signature, says the driving log requirement will be applied to youngsters who start driving with learner's permits after Jan. 1.
Because 12 months of driving is required before these beginners move up to provisional licenses, the change will apply to licenses issued after Jan. 1, 2013 - instead of next month.
The graduated licensing law also requires 12 hours of logs for teens moving from limited to full provisional licenses. And it introduces an automatic 30-day revocation of driving privileges for provisional drivers charged with a criminal moving violation, such as reckless, impaired or aggressive driving, or exceeding the speed limit by 15 mph.
Legislators agreed to the changes after parents and the state Division of Motor Vehicles pleaded for more time to comply with the new requirements.
Sen. David Rouzer, a Benson Republican who sponsored the original bill, said it will make teens safer by requiring more supervised driving, and by adding the penalty of immediate license revocation when teens are charged with serious traffic violations.
"The main purpose was to get our teens to think before they speed or commit other criminal moving violations, and to give them more time behind the wheel with adult supervision," Rouzer said. "If they're not going to fear death, maybe they'll fear the suspension of their license."
Graduated licensing programs across the country were credited with reducing fatal teen crashes in a national study published this week by the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Crash rates fell sharply for 16-year-old drivers and less sharply for 17-year-old drivers.
Researchers said they did not know why fatal crashes increased slightly for 18-year-old drivers after states adopted the graduated licensing requirements.
North Carolina and most states let 18-year-olds get their licenses without taking classes or going through graduated licensing.
"Those kids are starting out with none of the benefits of graduated driver's licensing and driver training," said Rob Foss of the UNC Highway Safety Research Center, one of the study's authors.
He said more study is needed to determine why fatal crashes increased for 18 year olds.