RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Have our roads become safer in North Carolina? State and local leaders say yes- and there’s a reason why.

Thursday afternoon, current and former officials came together to acknowledge 25 years of North Carolina drivers completing the Graduated Driver Licensing Service.

The program requires drivers to complete 12 months of practice behind the wheel with an experienced driver before getting their full license.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation reports that the state has seen a dramatic decline of crashes involving teen drivers.

Officials said fatal and serious injury accidents have dropped by 46 percent and overall crashes involving 16-year-old drivers have declined by 38 percent.

File photo

During the press conference Thursday, Mike Causey, North Carolina Commissioner of Insurance said, “Parents often ask me why automobile insurance rates are so high for teenagers. It’s because teens are inexperienced at driving and they and they have a lot of wrecks.”

Causey said inexperienced driving results in more crashes and higher claims. Causey said the goal is to improve the issue- something he’s seen through the Graduated Driver Licensing Service.

Director of the North Carolina Governor’s Highway Safety Program, Mark Ezzell, said the program recently had changes due to the pandemic and a backlog of drivers.

During that time, the program required drivers to practice for six months instead of 12.

He said, “Since COVID, we’ve seen a significant increase in the number of fatal crashes across the state and that is dangerous.”

Ezzell said it only reinforced the issue of requiring more training for young drivers to get fully licensed.

He said the service should be operating back to normal by the beginning of next year.

Organizers of the event said nearly every state has adopted GDL.

North Carolina was one of the first states to adopt the program.