Gov. Roy Cooper will neither sign nor veto a bill to give teens quicker access to a driver’s license. Senate Bill 157 will become law without Cooper’s signature.

“For years, NC’s graduated drivers license process has significantly improved safety for all motorists, however, this legislation passed by a large margin because it should help reduce the waiting time for young people wanting their license,” Cooper said in a prepared statement. “I have concerns that this law could make our roads less safe, and I encourage the Division of Motor Vehicles and the legislature to monitor its effects closely.”

S.B. 157 has two main provisions. First, it reduces from 12 months to nine months the amount of time a teen driver must operate with a learner’s permit before securing a provisional driver’s license.

Second, it allows the teen driver to transport an additional passenger under limited circumstances. Current state law allows for the teen driver to transport only one passenger under age 21 who is not an immediate family member. If the driver is transporting any family member under age 21, no additional passengers are allowed.

With the change in state law, the teen driver could exceed the old limit if a single additional passenger under age 21 is not a family member but “is a student being driven directly to or from school.”  

The state Senate approved the measure with a 38-5 vote on March 16. Twelve Democrats joined 26 Republicans in the majority. The House voted 92-15 in favor of the bill on April 20, with 65 Republicans and 27 Democrats voting “yes.” Both margins exceeded the three-fifths majority necessary to override a gubernatorial veto.

Sen. Vickie Sawyer, R-Iredell, the bill’s primary sponsor, said she was responding to requests from teens and parents. The new law brings North Carolina more closely into line with rules in surrounding states, Sawyer said.