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Bill that could reduce time to have a learner's permit passed by NC Senate

State lawmakers are hoping to reduce the learner's permit time, from 12 months to nine months.

RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina teens eager to get their license sooner could get their wish. 

State lawmakers are hoping to reduce the learner's permit time from 12 months to nine months. 

“Other states around us have a six month or a nine month waiting period, so I just feel like it’s really just an arbitrary number at this point," Senator Vickie Sawyer (R) told WCNC Charlotte.

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Senator Sawyer joins those sponsoring SB157 to shorten the practice period. This comes after state lawmakers already temporarily shortened the period to 6 months for teens during the pandemic. 

"We had a bunch of folks who were excited to get their drivers license, and they couldn’t because there was a 12-month waiting period and a backlog to get into driver’s ed(ucation)," Senator Sawyer said.

According to program leaders, the 12-month period allows teens to practice driving in different scenarios with restrictions like having a parent in the car, leading to fewer deadly crashes. 

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"You can't compress that time," Natalie O’Brien, senior research associate at the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center, said.

O’Brien researches teen driving safety. 

"Teens crash mainly from inexperience. The more practice that teens get, the longer the learner permit, the safer they are," she said.

But Senator Sawyer said the numbers are just not there.

"If NC has to wait for 12 months and we already have higher crash data than our neighbors to the north, then that is just a fallacy," Senator Sawyer said. 

The Senate bill passed with near unianimous support, and it now heads to the House for consideration.

Contact Kayland Hagwood at khagwood@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Flashpoint is a weekly in-depth look at politics in Charlotte, North Carolina, South Carolina, and beyond with host Ben Thompson. Listen to the podcast weekly.
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