House OKs retraining course for driver's license suspensions

The House on Monday approved a proposal to require drivers whose licenses are suspended for moving violations to attend and pass a driver retraining program to get their licenses reinstated.

House Bill 863, sponsored by Rep. Phil Shepard, R-Onslow, would allow the state Division of Motor Vehicles to charge up to $150 in fees to pay for the retraining course, which could be taken at a community college. The course would include at least eight hours of in-person training on safe driving habits and behavior management.

Under current state law, the DMV can suspend the license of a driver who racks up 12 points in a three-year period (or 8 points if the driver has had a prior suspension), who gets two speeding tickets in a year or who gets either a reckless or aggressive driving ticket and a speeding ticket in one year.

Drivers can also have their licenses suspended for exceeding 75 mph on a road where the speed limit is 65 mph or less or exceeding 80 mph where the speed limit is 70 mph.

Under the proposal, the DMV would be required to issue a 90-day notice to any driver whose license is to be suspended for offenses under those categories. If the driver undergoes driver retraining during that 90-day window, the suspension would be canceled. If he or she completes the retraining later, the remainder of the suspension would be revoked.

The course is designed to change driver behavior and attitudes, Shepard said, noting that three-fourths of drivers with suspended licenses continue to drive and that one in every five fatal crashes involves a driver without a license.

Rep. Marcia Morey, D-Durham, tried to make the program optional, saying that the $150 fee and the eight hours of invested time created an "added burden" for many people. Some drivers should be allowed to wait out their license suspension and simply pay a reinstatement fee to DMV, she said.

"If we don't have teeth in the bill, people will keep doing what they're doing," Shepard replied. "When we're talking about a loss of life, or death, this isn't asking too much."

Rep. Robert Reives, D-Lee, responded "the teeth are already there" in state license suspension laws, adding that money is already the primary reason many drivers with suspended licenses don't get reinstated.

Morey's amendment failed 51-67, and the bill sailed through with no other debate 97-21. It now heads to the Senate.

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