North Carolina, like many states, has a dense and nuanced system of laws related to driving. There are laws governing insurance coverage, licensing, and driving while intoxicated. Each set of rules has its own important details, and figuring out what means what can sometimes seem a daunting task. But the informed motorist will have nothing to worry about; understanding driving laws is often its own reward.
In North Carolina, car insurance is mandatory. The state also has some pretty strict minimum liability coverage guidelines. It demands $30,000 worth of coverage for bodily injury for one person and $60,000 for two or more; $30,000 for one uninsured or underinsured person and $60,000 for two or more; $25,000 for property damage and another $25,000 for uninsured or underinsured property damage.
North Carolina drivers are required to carry proof of insurance with them at all times when operating a vehicle. Even more importantly, if a driver is caught driving without insurance at all, the penalties can be tough, though not as bad as in some other states. If an insurance policy lapses, the insurance company is required by law to report the lapse to the Department of Motor Vehicles. You will then be issued a notice and have 10 days to respond without further penalties. However, if a driver ignores the notice, the DMV will immediately revoke an offender’s license plates for a minimum of 30 days and issue at least $100 in fines.
When it comes to auto accidents, North Carolina follows a Tort system. This means that when an accident does occur, someone must be found at fault. The driver found to be at fault is responsible for repairing all damage and compensating anyone injured. If the at-fault person has traditional auto insurance, the claim will be processed through the driver’s insurance company.
Luckily for many North Carolinians, the state has some of the lowest insurance costs in the nation. Coming in 44thof the 50 states, the average driver in the state only pays $596 for the year, while the nationwide average is $817.
Drunk driving laws in North Carolina are not as strict as in other parts of the country, but they are by no means lax. The Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) level for adult drivers is .08% and .04% for commercial drivers. The penalties are even more severe for a driver with a BAC over .15%. For a first offense, a driver will automatically lose his license for 30 days and have to pay up to $2,000 in fines and even serve up to 2 years in prison. Penalties get progressively more harsh with repeat offenses.
North Carolina’s DUI laws for teenager drivers are among the strictest in the country. While most states set the limit at .02%, North Carolina teens are not allowed even a drop of alcohol in their system without it being considered an offense. In some cases, drivers could lose their licenses until they turn 21.
However, North Carolina teens do luck out; the state has one of the youngest starting ages for drivers in the country. One only needs to be 15 years old to apply for a learner’s permit. But, there are several steps a teen must take in order to receive his full license. With a learner’s permit, the teen can only drive with a supervisor in the car. But after one year with a learner’s permit and six months of maintaining a clean driving record, teens may apply for a Limited Provisional License. This is almost like a full provisional license, but with one major restriction: teens may not drive between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. without supervision.
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