north carolina driving information
Hi there, North Carolina driver. We gathered stats, facts, and relevant info to give you a better idea of motoring in the Tar Heel State.
Number of licensed drivers: 6,504,000
Registered vehicles: 6,047,000
Licensing and registration authority: North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles
Violations and penalties in North Carolina
The best way to keep your car insurance rate down is to drive safely. Apart from paying more for car insurance, find out how your state penalizes risky driving.
Driving records and the North Carolina point system
Certain driving violations will add points on your North Carolina driving record.
Points range from 1–8, depending on the severity of the offense. Passing a stopped school bus can add 8 points, for example, while littering can add 1 point.
Accumulate more than 7 points and the state may assign you to a driver improvement clinic (which comes with a $50 clinic fee). If you get 12 or more points in a 3-year period, your license may be suspended.
Moving violations and other offenses can result in insurance points through North Carolina's Safe Driver Incentive Plan. The more insurance points a driver has, the higher the car insurance premium. And the fewer points a driver has, the lower the premium.
See our North Carolina car insurance page for more info.
Any driver caught operating a motor vehicle with a BAC of 0.08 percent or higher will be charged with a DWI (driving while impaired).
Those convicted of a first-time offense can expect to lose their licenses for at least one year.
Distracted driving laws
North Carolina drivers are prohibited from texting while driving.
Novice drivers can't use their cell phones at all, regardless of whether a device is handheld or hands-free.
These are primary laws in North Carolina, meaning a driver can be cited for a distracted driving violation without first committing some other infraction.
Reporting car accidents in North Carolina
If you're involved in a traffic accident that results in any injuries or more than $1,000 in damage, you're legally required to report it to the police. Failure to report this type of accident can add 3 points to your driving record.
Even if the damage initially appears minor, it doesn't hurt to call the police to the scene of any car accident.
Moving to North Carolina
New residents have 60 days to apply for a North Carolina drivers license. The state may require applicants to pass a vision test, a knowledge test, and, in some cases, a road test.
A license and proof of insurance are required before a car can be registered with the DMV.
Drivers in the military
Active members of the military who are on duty outside of North Carolina can renew an expiring drivers license through the mail so long as certain conditions are met.
To find out more, read page 21 of North Carolina's driver handbook (PDF).
Stolen cars in North Carolina
According to a recent National Insurance Crime Bureau report, most North Carolina car thefts occurred in Charlotte, with 4,036 reported thefts in 2011.
Most frequently stolen cars in North Carolina
- 1994 Honda Accord
- 1999 Honda Civic
- 2004 Ford Pickup (full size)
- 1999 Chevrolet Pickup (full size)
- 1992 Toyota Camry
- 1997 Ford Explorer
- 1999 Dodge Caravan
- 1991 Chevrolet Pickup (small size)
- 1999 Ford Taurus
- 2010 Toyota Corolla
Bonus insurance note (we can't resist): While it's not required by the state, comprehensive coverage offers financial protection in case your car is stolen.
Young driver requirements
First-time drivers in North Carolina who are under 18 will need to pass through a few levels of graduated licensing. Here's an overview of the various stages:
- Minimum age for a limited learner permit: 15 years old
- Prerequisite: completed drivers ed course
- Minimum holding period: one year
- Minimum age for a level 2 limited provisional license: 16 years old
- Minimum holding period: 6 months
- Minimum age for a level 3 provisional license: 16 years, 6 months old
Minimum age restrictions are lifted once you hit 18.
See the North Carolina Driver's Handbook (PDF) for more info.
Our guide to North Carolina car insurance
An in-depth refresher on insurance in North Carolina.
North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles
The official site of the North Carolina DMV.
North Carolina Department of Transportation
The state DOT provides easy access to timely commuting info.