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North Carolina teens will soon be able to get their driver's license without a road test

House Bill 158 would allow North Carolina teens to get their driver's license without having to pass a road test first.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A bill that would allow North Carolina teens to get their license without taking a road test is now headed to Gov. Cooper's office. 

House Bill 158 passed the NC House and Senate on Thursday, and will now head to the Governor's desk. The issue, supporters say, is a large backlog of teens waiting to get their driver's licenses, since the DMV is closed and not doing in-person road tests due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This new bill drafted to be a solution, but it’s not without controversy.

Some North Carolina parents, like Julie McDowell, say their teens are ready to drive.

“She was going to take her drivers test on March 18, which I think is the day the DMV closed,"  McDowell said of her 16-year-old daughter. “She’s jumped through all the hoops, that’s part of being a grown-up is driving yourself around.”

In North Carolina, after a year of driving under parental supervision with a learners permit, teens take an in-person road test to be granted their level 2 license, allowing them to drive alone between 5am and 9pm.

SEE MORE: NC license level information 

But with the DMV closed for months due to coronavirus concerns, thousands of teens have been in limbo, with a growing backlog of kids in line.

“She said to me, mom it could be a year before I can legally drive," McDowell said.

But not everyone is behind the idea.

"80% of teenage deaths are automobile accidents. And the leading cause for those deaths is user error," said Sarah Castro, a driving instructor who is advocating against this kind of legislation.

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"Just because your kid can drive and has been practicing and you're a responsible parent, doesn't mean everyone else's parents are as responsible as you," Castro said.

But for many teens and their parents, like McDowell – the bill is a relief.

"For my 16-year-old I don’t have a problem with that because she’s ready," she said. "I think it’s probably the best possible solution. I’m so thrilled to know somethings being done.”

According to a late amendment to the bill – teen drivers would have to take the in-person road test eventually before getting their full level 3 license, which they’re eligible for six months after having their level 2. 

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