Rules of the Road For North Carolina Drivers

While you may know the rules of the road in the state in which you are licensed to drive, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you know the traffic laws in other states. Even though many are based on common sense and are the same in every state, others may be different. If you are planning to move to or visit North Carolina, you will need to make sure you are aware of the traffic laws listed below that may differ from those that you follow in your own state.

Licenses and permits

  • It is illegal to sit in a vehicle driver’s seat if it is running or being towed or pushed if you do not have a valid license.

  • North Carolina uses a graduated licensing program for drivers ages 15 to 18.

  • A limited learner permit is available for those age 15 to 18 that have completed a minimum of 30 hours of classroom instruction and 6 hours of training behind the wheel.

  • After 12 months of holding the limited learner permit and meeting all other requirements, drivers can apply for a limited provisional license. This license are for those ages 16 and 17, and must be held for 6 months before applying for a full provisional license.

  • Drivers will hold the full provisional license until they are 18 and meet all additional requirements.

  • New residents have 60 days to obtain a North Carolina license after moving to the state.

Cell phones

  • It is illegal to use a cell phone to send, create or read text messages or emails while driving.

  • Drivers under the age of 18 are prohibited from using a cell phone or other type of electronic communication device while driving unless placing a call to 911.

Seat belts and safety seats

  • The driver and all passengers are required to wear seat belts when the vehicle is in motion.

  • Children under 16 must be in a safety seat or seat belt that is appropriate for their height and weight.

  • Children weighing less than 80 pounds and under 8 years old must be in a safety seat designed for their height and weight.

  • Children under 5 and weighing under 40 pounds must ride in the rear seat if the vehicle has them.

Right of way

  • Motorists must always yield the right of way to pedestrians at intersections and crosswalks whether they are marked or unmarked.

  • Blind pedestrians always have the right of way, even if there are no traffic signals.

  • Motorists are required to honk the horn if a pedestrian attempts to take the right of way, such as when he or she is trying to cross against a light. If the pedestrian does not stop after the driver honks the horn, the vehicle must stop and allow the pedestrian to cross.

  • Drivers should yield to funeral processions if traveling in the same direction or if the procession is already moving through an intersection where the driver’s light has turned green.

School buses

  • All traffic on a two-lane road must stop when a school bus stops to load or unload children.

  • All traffic on a two-lane road that has a turn lane in the center must stop when a school bus stops to load or unload children.

  • All traffic on a four-lane road that does not have a median are required to stop when a school bus stops to load or unload children.

Emergency vehicles

  • Drivers must move one lane over on a road that has a minimum of two lanes of traffic that are going in the same direction if an emergency vehicle is stopped on the side of the road.

  • On two-lane roads, all drivers must reduce speed and proceed with caution if an emergency vehicle is stopped.

  • It is illegal to park within 100 feet of an emergency vehicle that is stopped to provide assistance or investigate an accident.

General rules

  • Speeding - Motorists who are caught going 15 mph over the speed limit and going faster than 55 mph will have their license suspended for a minimum of 30 days.

  • Helmets - All motorcycle and moped riders are required to wear helmets that are compliant with the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard. These helmets will have a permanent DOT symbol on the back that is put there by the manufacturer.

  • Truck beds - Children under the age of 16 are prohibited from riding in an open truck bed unless an adult is also riding in the truck bed to supervise them.

These traffic laws, in addition to those that are the same in every state, must be followed when driving on the roads in North Carolina. The North Carolina Driver’s Handbook is available if you would like more information or if you have any questions.


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