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South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles


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  Historical Information and Statistics
SCDMV History

Established in 1917 by the South Carolina State Highway Commission, SCDMV was first named the Division of Automobile Licensing and Registration. The division's tasks included the issuance of licenses and the collection of fees.

When the division was initially created, the first item on the agenda was to inform South Carolinians of a new law requiring vehicle owners to obtain a state, not county, license plate for their vehicle. The cost to obtain a license plate was determined by the horsepower of a vehicle, not the weight as it is today. Citizens paid $.25 per horsepower.

The majority of the fees collected (80 percent) were returned to the counties to offset the cost of building and expanding the highways and bridges. The other 20 percent was used for the Highway Department’s operating fund.

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License Plates

The license plates issued by the division were a far cry from today’s standard. They were not even a consistent size from year to year until the mid 1930’s. The largest license plate was issued in 1926 and measured 5 by 16¾ inches. Since 1956, all license plates have been produced at the standard size 6 by 12 inches.

During the early production of the license plates, the expiration date was actually imprinted into the plate. It has only been within the past 30 years that expiration stickers have been used on the license plates.

The appearance of the plates has also changed quite a bit over the past 88 years. The plates produced in 1916 and 1917 had the county and town in which the vehicle was registered on the plate. In 1926, the division attempted to create a more decorative plate by including a palmetto tree. In the 1930’s, the license plates began to carry slogans such as “The Iodine State” (1932) and “The Iodine Products State” (1933).


The SC 1916 license plate also included the name of the county and city.

 


The 1932 license plate proudly displayed our SC motto.

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Drivers Licenses

It wasn’t until the 1930’s that legislation was passed requiring vehicle drivers to obtain a driver’s license and pass a driving test to drive legally. By this time, the Division of Automobile Licensing and Registration was known as the Motor Vehicle Division of the State Highway Department.

According to the new law, anyone who was at least 12 years old could obtain a license by completing an application and paying a $.50 fee. There was also a family plan that covered a husband, wife and all children in the household ages 12 to 21 for a discounted rate of $1.00. All fees had to be paid at the Columbia office since, at that time, there were no branch offices.

In 1955, the point system was mandated by state law and in 1968, legislation passed requiring color photographs on all driver licenses.

Ironically, state law continued to allow for the issuance of a metal driver’s license to those drivers who had not been suspended or cancelled. These metal licenses resembled a military ‘dog tag’ and included all information on a regular driver’s license except the photograph. A hand-held numbering machine ‘engraved’ the driver’s information into the metal license.


1945 Driver's License


Metal driver's licenses

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Financial Responsibility

Originally passed as the Motor Vehicle Safety Responsibility Law in 1952, this law required all owners and operators of vehicles who become involved in an accident causing injury, death or property damage, and who were not covered by liability insurance, to post a security sufficient to cover any judgment against that vehicle owner.

The law also required the suspension of license plates and registration cards of all vehicles owned by any person who has had their driver’s license suspended or revoked or for operating a vehicle without a license.

In 1974, the S.C. Automobile Reparation Reform Act was enacted requiring every motor vehicle that was subject to registration be insured with liability coverage at the time of registration.

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Titles
The Motor Vehicle Title Act, which began in 1958, provided for a three-year gradual titling of all vehicles. Prior to this act, only those vehicles purchased from dealers or those vehicles brought into the state for registration and licensing were required to be titled. After 1960, the law was finally passed requiring all vehicles to be titles prior to license renewal and registration.
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SCDMV Today

Today’s SCDMV is certainly more technologically advanced than the DMV of 1917 and better equipped than the early years. From providing 68 branch offices across the state to issuing digital driver licenses and conducting business online, the current SCDMV is offering services that our predecessors never even dreamed about using.

The South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles has come a long way in providing quality customer service and continues to listen to our customers’ needs and suggestions

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License and Registration Statistics

South Carolina Driver Licenses

 

2000

2,910,209

2001

3,001,338*

2002

2,902,904*

2003

3,001.338*

2004

3,025,009

2005

3,038,238

2006

3,099,033

2007

3,146,379

2008

3,211,119

2009

3,343,014

2010

3,362,893

2011

3,471,654

2012

3,528,560

2013

3,568,735

 

    

South Carolina Registered Vehicles

 

2000

3,182,390*

2001

3,210,578*

2002

3,275,922*

2003

3,343,011

2004

3,541,043

2005

3,585,879

2006

3,704,689

2007

3,829,448

2008

3,882,780

2009

3,906,300

2010

3,950,498

2011

3,998,948

2012

4,050,858

2013

4,130,480

 

 *Fiscal Year

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Vehicle Registrations by County

S.C. REGISTERED VEHICLES (12/2013)

ABBEVILLE

24241

AIKEN

148673

ALLENDALE

6724

ANDERSON

170483

BAMBERG

11849

BARNWELL

19336

BEAUFORT

142602

BERKELEY

158648

CALHOUN

17633

CHARLESTON

302685

CHEROKEE

50133

CHESTER

30427

CHESTERFIELD

41728

CLARENDON

28269

COLLETON

35737

DARLINGTON

56850

DILLON

24165

DORCHESTER

117399

EDGEFIELD

23534

FAIRFIELD

21905

FLORENCE

113067

GEORGETOWN

57289

GREENVILLE

402350

GREENWOOD

59269

HAMPTON

16246

HORRY

257859

JASPER

23486

KERSHAW

60076

LANCASTER

70784

LAURENS

60635

LEE

15177

LEXINGTON

255522

MARION

25952

MARLBORO

20654

MCCORMICK

9328

NEWBERRY

36386

OCONEE

74057

ORANGEBURG

73046

PICKENS

100875

RICHLAND

316831

SALUDA

19339

SPARTANBURG

252621

SUMTER

89277

UNDETERMINED

16964

UNION

25483

WILLIAMSBURG

29351

YORK

215535

TOTAL

4130480


 

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Driver Licenses by County

S.C. DRIVER LICENSES BY COUNTY (12/2013)

 

ABBEVILLE

18833

AIKEN

126071

ALLENDALE

5367

ANDERSON

144861

BAMBERG

10071

BARNWELL

15942

BEAUFORT

129937

BERKELEY

142867

CALHOUN

11959

CHARLESTON

283174

CHEROKEE

41493

CHESTER

25115

CHESTERFIELD

32701

CLARENDON

24450

COLLETON

29934

DARLINGTON

49253

DILLON

21274

DORCHESTER

112419

EDGEFIELD

18275

FAIRFIELD

17095

FLORENCE

99917

GEORGETOWN

49738

GREENVILLE

355813

GREENWOOD

48984

HAMPTON

14006

HORRY

240993

JASPER

17222

KERSHAW

49326

LANCASTER

61452

LAURENS

49507

LEE

12318

LEXINGTON

209015

MARION

23466

MARLBORO

19626

MCCORMICK

7108

NEWBERRY

27593

OCONEE

59231

ORANGEBURG

63092

PICKENS

87642

RICHLAND

272099

SALUDA

13552

SPARTANBURG

217049

SUMTER

76561

UNDETERMINED

342

UNION

21487

WILLIAMSBURG

23271

YORK

187234

Total

3568735

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On This Page
SCDMV History
License Plates
Drivers Licenses
Financial Responsibility
Titles
SCDMV Today
License and Registration Statistics
Vehicle Registrations by County
Driver Licenses by County

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