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

2014

3,692,541

2015

3,724,946


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

2014

4,229,277

2015

4,336,240


 *Fiscal Year

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Vehicle Registrations by County

S.C. REGISTERED VEHICLES (12/2015)



ABBEVILLE

                 24,814

AIKEN

               153,965

ALLENDALE

                    6,737

ANDERSON

               177,484

BAMBERG

                 11,695

BARNWELL

                 19,365

BEAUFORT

               152,628

BERKELEY

               170,048

CALHOUN

                 18,121

CHARLESTON

               323,594

CHEROKEE

                 51,278

CHESTER

                 31,345

CHESTERFIELD

                 42,654

CLARENDON

                 28,848

COLLETON

                 37,011

DARLINGTON

                 57,819

DILLON

                 24,333

DORCHESTER

               124,057

EDGEFIELD

                 24,339

FAIRFIELD

                 22,354

FLORENCE

               116,017

GEORGETOWN

                 59,392

GREENVILLE

               425,200

GREENWOOD

                 60,329

HAMPTON

                 16,501

HORRY

               283,153

JASPER

                 26,386

KERSHAW

                 62,400

LANCASTER

                 76,469

LAURENS

                 62,338

LEE

                 15,399

LEXINGTON

               265,020

MARION

                 26,343

MARLBORO

                 21,282

MCCORMICK

                    9,416

NEWBERRY

                 37,704

OCONEE

                 76,401

ORANGEBURG

                 73,634

PICKENS

               104,475

RICHLAND

               325,826

SALUDA

                 20,072

SPARTANBURG

               265,549

SUMTER

                 90,965

UNDETERMINED

                 21,794

UNION

                 25,654

WILLIAMSBURG

                 29,522

YORK

               236,510

TOTAL

           4,336,240



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Driver Licenses by County

S.C. DRIVER LICENSES BY COUNTY (12/2015)



ABBEVILLE

            19,252

AIKEN

          129,981

ALLENDALE

              5,262

ANDERSON

          150,076

BAMBERG

              9,911

BARNWELL

            15,708

BEAUFORT

          137,605

BERKELEY

          152,521

CALHOUN

            12,079

CHARLESTON

          299,321

CHEROKEE

            42,181

CHESTER

            25,524

CHESTERFIELD

            33,128

CLARENDON

            24,809

COLLETON

            30,539

DARLINGTON

            49,811

DILLON

            21,302

DORCHESTER

          119,374

EDGEFIELD

            18,689

FAIRFIELD

            17,344

FLORENCE

          101,801

GEORGETOWN

            51,361

GREENVILLE

          374,985

GREENWOOD

            49,924

HAMPTON

            13,936

HORRY

          260,899

JASPER

            18,567

KERSHAW

            50,984

LANCASTER

            66,782

LAURENS

            50,592

LEE

            12,345

LEXINGTON

          217,803

MARION

            23,499

MARLBORO

            19,665

MCCORMICK

              7,254

NEWBERRY

            28,325

OCONEE

            61,105

ORANGEBURG

            63,433

PICKENS

            90,809

RICHLAND

          282,228

SALUDA

            13,902

SPARTANBURG

          226,350

SUMTER

            78,259

UNDETERMINED

                 336

UNION

            21,671

WILLIAMSBURG

            23,138

YORK

          200,576

TOTAL

3,724,946



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