Joe Fitzgerald is a former Traffic Crash Reconstructionist and owner of Southeastern Driver Training Center. Joe has been qualified as an expert witness in the fields of Traffic Crash Reconstruction, Drug & Alcohol Impaired Driving, Standardized Field Sobriety Testing and The Streets and Highways of Wilmington, NC.

I’m often asked about the process for testing and obtaining a driver’s license in North Carolina. I thought this post could be a resource for those with questions about North Carolina’s graduated licensing program.  We will break it down into a step by step process and include a few tips as well.

Step 1:  Complete Driver Education.  Individuals under the age of 18 are required to complete an approved Driver Education course comprised of 30 hours of classroom instruction and six hours of behind the wheel instruction.  Individuals 18 and older are not required to complete a Driver Education course although I would highly recommend these individuals to at least obtain some type of formal instruction from a trained professional.  You can find Adult Online Driver Education Courses by clicking here.

Step 2:  Test for your Learner’s Permit.  In order to test for your Learner’s Permit you must:

  • Be at least 15 years old
  • If you’re under the age of 18, completed an approved Driver Education Course
  • Have the following documents:  birth certificate, social security card, driver education certificate (if under 18), Driving Eligibility Certificate (DEC) from school.  For a complete list of acceptable documents consult the NC Driver Handbook.
  • You may also want to bring in additional documents to obtain your REAL ID which was mandated to increase security standards when entering certain federal facilities.  For more on this consult the NC Driver Handbook or visit

When testing for your permit you will have to complete a sign test, vision test and a knowledge exam.  (SDTC offers an online course designed to help individuals prepare for their knowledge exam.  Call for more information)

Step 3:  Test for your Level Two Limited Provisional License.  In order to test for this you must have held your Learner’s Permit for at least one full year (if under 18) and have completed a driving log indicating a minimum of 60 hours of driving with at least 10 of those hours being at night.  (tip:  The DMV will give you a paper copy of this log but you can also use apps like Road Ready as long as you print out the log when visiting the DMV)

When testing for your Level Two Limited Provisional License you will be required to complete a road test with a DMV representative.  For more information on this road test  and what skills are observed consult the NC Driver Handbook.

Once you receive this license you are allowed to drive without supervision between the hours of 5am – 9pm unless certain exemptions exist (consult NC Driver Handbook for those exemptions).  You are only allowed to have one passenger under the age of 21 when driving or multiple, immediate family members (siblings). These stipulations do not apply if a supervising driver is in the car.  You must also complete a driving log indicating 12 driving hours with six of those being at night.

You must maintain this license for at least six months before applying for your Level Three Full Provisional License.

Step 4:  Obtain your Full Provisional License.  To obtain this license you must return to the DMV and provide them with your driving log.

Once obtaining this license the passenger and hour restrictions do not apply.  Individuals under the age of 18 may not use their cell phone or any technology associated with their cell phone while driving.

That’s a brief summary of what to expect when going through the licensing process in North Carolina.  For more information click here or obtain a North Carolina Handbook from your local DMV office.  Feel free to contact us if you have any questions.

Stay safe!