Road Worrier

Road Worrier: Teen drivers log quality time with Mom and Dad

bsiceloff@newsobserver.comDecember 31, 2012 

  • Driving logs and graduated licensing North Carolina’s graduated licensing system gives teens permission to drive in stages, starting as young as 15. There are limits on where and when they can drive without adult supervision. These controls are relaxed over time. New required driving logs must be signed by a parent or another supervising adult with at least five years’ driving experience. If the Division of Motor Vehicles suspects that driving logs are phony, new logs will be required and the new license will be delayed at least six months. Level 1 limited learner’s permit (age 15-17) For teens who have passed a driver education class. Driving allowed only with a supervising adult in the front seat. No night driving during the first six months. Level 2 limited provisional license (age 16 or 17) Requirements: Successful road test after 12 months with learner’s permit. Signed logs documenting at least 60 hours’ driving with front-seat adult supervision, including at least 10 hours at night. No more than 10 hours can be counted each week. Privileges: Unsupervised driving allowed 5 a.m.-9 p.m., or for trips to work or for volunteer fire, rescue or EMS duty. There are limits on how many under-21 passengers can ride in the car. Level 3 full provisional license (age 16 or 17) Requirements: Six months experience with Level 2 limited provisional license. No moving violations or seat-belt infractions. Signed logs documenting at least 12 hours’ supervised driving, including six hours at night. Privileges: Unsupervised driving allowed at any time. Full license (18 or older) No requirement for driver education, supervised driving or provisional license. Details and DMV-approved log forms are available at license examiner offices or at

In the old days, a learner’s permit didn’t actually require any driving – so it didn’t always produce any learning.

That’s supposed to change with a new requirement, enacted by the legislature in 2011, that takes full effect in 2013.

Now, before teens earn the right to drive without an adult in the car, they must submit signed logs to show they’ve spent at least 60 hours driving WITH an adult in the front seat.

The new requirement adds supervision to the restrictions of North Carolina’s graduated licensing program, which lets teens start driving as young as 15 under controls that are relaxed over time.

The driving logs are intended to get parents serious about their responsibilities to help teens become safe drivers.

But it takes more than 60 hours of supervised driving to get the job done, says Rob Foss, director of the UNC Center for the Study of Young Drivers, in Chapel Hill. They need more time to practice in a variety of driving conditions.

“Sixty hours of driving back and forth to school, to church, to the mall is better than not doing it,” Foss said. “But it isn’t nearly enough.”

Sometimes, under the old law, teens didn’t do much driving at all with their learner’s permits. They’d wait out the required 12 months to get their provisional licenses, and the right to drive adult-free.

Maybe they didn’t think they were missing something, but they were.

Without Mom or Dad riding shotgun, there was nobody to provide wise reminders about good driving habits: Check your mirrors, turn on your headlights in the rain, watch out for people on foot and on bikes.

“What kids need to do really is get quite a bit of exposure driving in every possible situation where they’re going to be. They need to practice driving on narrow, winding rural roads, and on interstates, and in heavy, congested traffic,” Foss said.

The new law requires 60 hours of driving with front-seat adult supervision, spread over at least six weeks (no more than 10 hours’ credit per week), including at least 10 hours at night. The driving logs, signed by the supervising adult, are submitted when the teen applies to the Division of Motor Vehicles for a limited provisional license.

The driving logs rule covers teens who were issued learner’s permits starting in 2012. A 12-month wait is required before moving up to a provisional license, so DMV officers will require the 60-hour logs for the first time in 2013.

A lesser requirement for 12 hours of logs took effect last July for teens moving up to the full provisional license, the final step before the unrestricted license issued at age 18.

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