North Carolina Road Laws – Uncommon Laws You Need to Know About

North Carolina Road Laws - Uncommon Laws You Need to Know About

Trying to avoid annoying tickets?

Want to be the safest driver out there?

Well, then you need to know and obey the North Carolina road laws — yes, even the uncommon ones that nobody talks about. 

And this is why, here, we’re going to focus on these uncommon laws and tell you all you need to know. We’ll look at the laws and penalties for:

  • Cell phones
  • Safety helmets
  • Open bed vehicles
  • School buses
  • Speed limits
  • Parking
  • Passing
  • Littering

There’s a lot to cover, so let’s begin right away!

North Carolina Cell Phone Law

North Carolina Road Laws

Everyone has a cell phone these days.

And although there’s no denying the many advantages it brings, we also have to admit how distracting it can be.

This is why the State of North Carolina implements a cell phone law that states…

ALL drivers cannot send or read a text message or email, regardless of age. 

Moreover, drivers under 18 years old and those operating school buses cannot use a mobile phone or any of its features. 

It means that more than being unable to read and send messages, these specific drivers cannot use their phones to surf the internet, visit social media platforms, or play games or music.

In an emergency, this law does not apply. Those under 18 years old can also use the phone to reach a parent, guardian, or spouse.

Here are other situations when the cell phone law does not apply:

  • When you are stopped or parked.
  • You are a law enforcement officer, firefighter, or ambulance driver performing official duties.
  • You are using a GPS or other hands-free feature (this does not apply to those below 18 years old) 

Outside of these scenarios, violating North Carolina’s Cell Phone law results in the following penalties:

TicketBus DriversDrivers Under 18All Other Drivers
Cell PhoneClass 2 misdemeanor
A fine of at least $100
A fine of at least $25N/A
Text and EmailClass 2 misdemeanor
A fine of at least $100
A fine of at least $100A fine of at least $100

North Carolina Safety Helmet Law

Drivers who operate motorcycles and mopeds are more likely to be affected by weather and road conditions. That’s why wearing the correct safety gear is essential.

One non-negotiable gear is your helmet. 

There is no age limit to this law. As long as you operate a motorcycle or a moped, you have to wear one.

However, North Carolina has specific requirements. Your helmet must comply with the following:

  • It must have an inch-thick inner liner of polystyrene.
  • It must have a DOT sticker permanently installed at the back. If someone else besides the helmet manufacturer placed it there, your helmet remains non-compliant.
  • Its interior shows the manufacturer’s label, which contains the following information:
    • The manufacturer’s name or identification
    • Month and year manufactured
    • The helmet’s model and size
    • The type of shell and liner construction materials 
    • Instructions for cleaning and maintenance

If a law enforcement officer pulls you over for not wearing an FMVSS-compliant helmet, you must pay a $25 fine.

North Carolina Open Bed Law

If you drive a pickup or any vehicle with an open bed, you must ensure that you obey the North Carolina Open Bed Law. This states that…

Children below 16 years old are not allowed to ride in the open bed of a vehicle. 

Whether or not you gave your consent, you will have to pay a $25 fine if a law enforcement officer catches children below the allowable age in your open cargo area.

However, some situations excuse you from this regulation, such as:

  • The child is with a supervising adult.
  • You used a seat belt (compliant with FMVSS number 28) to restrain the child.
  • You are in an emergency.
  • The vehicle is part of a parade.

North Carolina School Bus Law

In North Carolina, you typically share the road with school buses between these hours:

  • 7 am to 9 am 
  • 2 pm to 4 pm

And, by law, you cannot pass a school bus that has its mechanical stop sign out and flashing red lights activated. These signals mean the driver is unloading or loading children. 

You’ll have to stop, regardless of which direction you’re traveling. 

However, if you’re on a divided highway with at least four lanes (with either a median separator or a center turning lane), only the vehicles going in the same direction as the school bus must stop.

You can only resume moving when the school bus deactivates its flashing red lights and retracts the stop sign.

You might not expect it, but disobeying the North Carolina school bus law comes with harsh penalties. 

Passing a stopped school bus leads to a $500 fine and a Class 1 misdemeanor. Drivers convicted a second time may face one-year license revocation.

The penalties are worse if you violate North Carolina’s School Bus law and hit someone. It becomes a Class 1 felony and comes with a $1,250 fine. The DMV may also revoke your driving privileges for two years.

If an illegal passing of a school bus results in a fatality, you’re looking at a Class H felony with a $2,500 fine. License revocation reaches three years.

North Carolina Speed Limits

Speeding is a dangerous driving behavior. It increases your vehicle’s stopping distance and makes losing control of your car more likely. 

The chances of sustaining grave injuries (or worse) are also higher during accidents because it increases the impact.

So you should never exceed the posted speed limit in North Carolina. 

Remember, speed limits in the state vary depending on the area you’re in and the vehicle you’re driving:

  • Cities and towns: 35 mph 
  • Outside cities and towns: 55 mph
  • On interstates: 70 mph
  • For school buses: 45 mph 
  • For school activity buses: 55 mph 

If a specific area has a different limit, you must abide by it. 

You must also adjust your speed depending on the road and weather conditions.

Violating speed limits generally result in a fine between $10 and $50, depending on how fast you are going. However, the amount can reach anywhere between $150 and $200 if you include court costs.

Penalties for speeding in a school or construction zones are higher. These can go up to $250.

North Carolina Parking Laws

When it comes to parking, keep the following things in mind:

  • Always park on the right side of the road unless you’re on a one-way street.
  • Don’t forget to give a left-turn signal and watch out for incoming traffic if you’re leaving a parallel parking spot. 
  • Reduce your speed and prepare to stop if you notice a vehicle pulling out of a parallel parking spot.

Besides these, there are specific places where you cannot park in North Carolina. These are:

  • At an intersection
  • In front of a driveway
  • Within 25 feet of an intersecting street or curb
  • Within 15 feet of the intersecting right-of-way lines in the absence of a curb
  • On a bridge, crosswalk, or sidewalk
  • Within 15 feet of a fire station’s entrance or a fire hydrant
  • On the paved or primary-travel portion of any highway. NOTE: You cannot park on the shoulder of the road unless drivers from both directions can see you from 200 feet away.
  • On the roadway side of an already-parked vehicle (double parking)
  • Areas with ‘No Parking’ signs posted.
  • Within one block of a fire or fire truck in city limits (if outside the city, you cannot park within 400 feet of them)
  • Anywhere within the right of way of an interstate highway. The only exceptions are during an emergency or when there are designated parking areas.
  • In spaces for the disabled unless you have the appropriate placard and plates. Violating this results in a fine between $100 and $250.

North Carolina Passing Laws

In North Carolina, passing other vehicles is typically prohibited in the following areas:

  • Intersections in cities and towns (and marked ones in rural areas)
  • Railroad crossings
  • On a curve or hill where the driver cannot see at least 500 feet ahead of them
  • When there is a solid yellow line in the driver’s lane
  • When the pavement marking shows a double-solid yellow line
  • When vehicles stop for pedestrians on a crosswalk or intersection
  • When you can’t determine enough if the road is clear of traffic to pass safely

If none of these apply to your situation, you can pass other vehicles. However, ensure that you proceed with caution.

To do that, always look ahead and behind you to ensure the road is safe. It’s also best to signal your intention to other drivers on the road.

North Carolina Littering Law

Littering from your vehicle isn’t only discouraged in North Carolina — it’s illegal. 

You cannot dispose of litter from your vehicle in private or public places. However, this law does not apply if you’re on your property.

A first offense can result in a fine between $250 and $1,000. Another conviction within three years makes it your second offense. The penalty is a fine between $500 and $2,000.

The Wrap Up

And there you have it — a deep dive into the uncommon North Carolina road laws. 

We know it’s a lot to take in, but it’s so important to know and obey these laws.

Not only so you can avoid the penalties, but especially so that you can be a safe and responsible driver. 

Drive safely!

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