Driver’s Licensing Began

A pre-Division of Motor Vehicles license issued by the city of Raleigh in either 1928 or 1929 that is now in the collection of the N.C. Museum of History

A pre-Division of Motor Vehicles driver’s license issued by the city of Raleigh in either 1928 or 1929 that is now in the N.C. Museum of History‘s collection

On February 28, 1935, the General Assembly passed the Uniform Driver’s License Act, placing in the pockets of authorized drivers the state’s official sanction putting them behind the wheel. The bill, sponsored by Senator Carroll Weathers of Wake County, was a response to the fact that more than 1,000 deaths had occurred on the state’s highways since the rise of the automobile 30 years earlier. The automobile age in North Carolina had begun in earnest with the introduction of the “Buggymobile” in New Bern in 1903 and other primitive vehicles soon after.

The 1935 act defined a motor vehicle as “any rubber-tired vehicle propelled or drawn by any power other than muscular.”  Aircraft, road rollers, street sprinklers, ambulances, baggage trucks and agricultural and industrial tractors were excluded from the licensing requirement.

A state issued driver's handbook from 1953, now in the collection of the N.C. Museum of History

A state issued driver’s handbook from 1953, now in the collection of the N.C. Historic Sites

Then, as now, drivers were required to be at least 16 years of age. Initially no test was required, and only the word that the applicant was experienced and careful was needed. Exams began in 1948.

Today the Division of Motor Vehicles, part of the Department of Transportation, administers the state’s drivers licensing program.  You can see the original Uniform Driver’s License Act by clicking here.

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