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

 

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

 

 

 *Fiscal Year

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Vehicle Registrations by County

S.C. REGISTERED VEHICLES (12/2014)

ABBEVILLE

24437

AIKEN

150861

ALLENDALE

6811

ANDERSON

173641

BAMBERG

11706

BARNWELL

19217

BEAUFORT

148117

BERKELEY

164220

CALHOUN

17913

CHARLESTON

311962

CHEROKEE

50668

CHESTER

30870

CHESTERFIELD

42194

CLARENDON

28425

COLLETON

36108

DARLINGTON

57306

DILLON

24095

DORCHESTER

121114

EDGEFIELD

23886

FAIRFIELD

22126

FLORENCE

114564

GEORGETOWN

58628

GREENVILLE

413392

GREENWOOD

59721

HAMPTON

16296

HORRY

270248

JASPER

24866

KERSHAW

60951

LANCASTER

73285

LAURENS

61386

LEE

15200

LEXINGTON

260459

MARION

26023

MARLBORO

20921

MCCORMICK

9349

NEWBERRY

36937

OCONEE

75292

ORANGEBURG

73047

PICKENS

102852

RICHLAND

321833

SALUDA

19733

SPARTANBURG

259017

SUMTER

90319

UNDETERMINED

19030

UNION

25436

WILLIAMSBURG

29441

YORK

225374

TOTAL

4229277

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Driver Licenses by County

S.C. DRIVER LICENSES BY COUNTY (12/2014)

 

ABBEVILLE 19272
AIKEN 129348
ALLENDALE 5384
ANDERSON 149419
BAMBERG 10125
BARNWELL 16019
BEAUFORT 135199
BERKELEY 149316
CALHOUN 12146
CHARLESTON 295027
CHEROKEE 42558
CHESTER 25744
CHESTERFIELD 33535
CLARENDON 24877
COLLETON 30484
DARLINGTON 50253
DILLON 21674
DORCHESTER 117494
EDGEFIELD 18690
FAIRFIELD 17530
FLORENCE 102163
GEORGETOWN 51222
GREENVILLE 369954
GREENWOOD 50058
HAMPTON 14138
HORRY 253775
JASPER 18003
KERSHAW 50738
LANCASTER 64886
LAURENS 50788
LEE 12478
LEXINGTON 216117
MARION 23761
MARLBORO 19984
MCCORMICK 7236
NEWBERRY 28381
OCONEE 61024
ORANGEBURG 64002
PICKENS 90529
RICHLAND 280295
SALUDA 13879
SPARTANBURG 224359
SUMTER 78322
UNDETERMINED 349
UNION 21891
WILLIAMSBURG 23497
YORK 196618
Total 3692541

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