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In an entry to on reciprocal agreements for learner drivers, it is mentioned that in North Carolina:

The International Drivers License is NOT recognized in North Carolina and cannot be used as a drivers license.

On the referred page it is however stated that

Residents from other states or countries may operate vehicles in North Carolina using their drivers licenses. The same restrictions or limitations as imposed by their home states or countries apply in North Carolina.

These two lines do however contradict each other since a local drivers license always is an intrinsic part of a International Drivers License.

What is the rationale behind denying IDP's and allowing local, foreign, drivers licenses. Also the use of the word "may" in "Residents from other states or countries may operate vehicles" is confusing.

So with an EU drivers license, can I or can't I drive in North Carolina?

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I'm not sure how it works in NC but AFAIK the rule in GA and a majority of places in the US is that you can drive with a license from another country. The international drivers permit is essentially not required and hence not recognized. My father came in GA for a few days with an International Drivers permit. When he showed the rental car guy his permit, he just asked for his Indian License instead and said this will be alright. – Aditya Somani Jun 27 '14 at 8:03
But then why explicitly denying IDPs? – user141 Jun 27 '14 at 8:10
@andra Because you cannot drive with an IDP alone in any case. – Relaxed Jun 27 '14 at 8:11
Also, what's confusing about “may”? What would you write instead? Whether you can depend on actually having a car, etc. The law can only decide whether you may or may not. If you have a car and know how to operate it, you can drive in any case, even if you may not. You would only be doing so illegally. It seems quite standard English usage. – Relaxed Jun 27 '14 at 8:12
@Relaxed Some might get confused reading it. It denotes a sense of possibility rather than confirmation. Of course maybe this considers implicitly that you need to be following US and NC traffic rules while doing so. So you cannot be intoxicated for example, must drive on the right side of the road for example. – Aditya Somani Jun 27 '14 at 8:14

The terminology seems a bit sloppy but it's mostly a question of semantics. An international driving permit is a separate document that can only be used together with the original driver's license. So it makes sense to specify that it isn't valid by itself. Also, it's perfectly possible to recognize (some) licenses without requiring nor recognizing IDPs.

Whether you may drive with yours typically depends on where you obtained it. Although I don't know about the rules in North Carolina, agreements (in the US and elsewhere) do not apply to EU licenses as such but only to specific countries. On the other hand, the sentence you quoted would seem to imply that North Carolina unilaterally recognizes any driver's license (EU or not), which would make the distinction moot.

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