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Changes in North Carolina licensing standards

Car crash rates declined sharply in North Carolina after lawmakers toughened licensing standards for beginners in December 1997. Here's what changed:

Before December 1997:

_ Fifteen-year-olds who passed driver's ed, a vision test, a sign-recognition test and a written driving test could begin driving if supervised.

_ People 16 or older who passed those tests could begin driving with no supervision and no practice beyond what they got in driver's ed.

Today:

_ Beginners ages 15 to 17 may drive for the first year only under the supervision of designated adults.

_ If beginners have no traffic violations in the second six months of that first year and pass a road test, they receive provisional licenses.

_ For the next six months, provisional license-holders may drive unsupervised only between 5 a.m. and 9 p.m. At other hours, a designated adult must be in the car.

_ After six months with no traffic violations, provisional license-holders graduate to unrestricted licenses.

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(c) 2005, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

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