Driver's License Examination
The Department must examine every applicant for a driver’s license, unless the Department waives this requirement. The examination must include a test of the applicant’s eyesight (20/40 visual acuity required), his or her ability to read and understand highway signs and all South Carolina traffic laws. This test must also include an actual demonstration of the applicant’s ability to exercise ordinary and reasonable control in the operation of the type motor vehicle for which a license is sought. The Department may require a further physical and mental examination if it considers this necessary to determine the applicant’s fitness to operate a motor vehicle. The Department must make provisions for giving an examination in the county where the applicant resides.
Graduated Driver's Licensing
South Carolina has a system of graduated licensing for novice drivers.
At age 15, individuals are eligible for a beginner’s permit.
- Beginner’s permit holders may drive from 6 a.m. to midnight if a licensed driver who is at least 21 years old and has at least 1 year of driving experience accompanies the driver in the front seat. Beginner’s permit holders may drive from midnight to 6 a.m. if a licensed parent or guardian accompanies him or her in the front seat.
- Permit holders must accumulate 40 hours (10 hours at night) of supervised driving.
At 15 and 6 months, drivers are eligible for a conditional/restricted license if they have: (1) passed a certified driver’s education course; (2) successfully passed a road test; and (3) satisfied the school attendance requirement.
- Restricted license holders may drive alone during daylight hours from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. (or 8 p.m. during daylight savings time). From 6 p.m. (or 8 p.m. during daylight savings time) until midnight, the restricted license holder must be accompanied by a licensed driver who is at least 21 years of age. Between midnight and 6 a.m., restricted license holders may drive if a licensed parent or legal guardian accompanies them.
- Drivers may not transport more than 2 passengers under the age of 21 unless they are accompanied by a licensed adult who is at least 21 years old. Family members and fellow students being transported to and from school are exempt.
At age 16 and 6 months, drivers are eligible for an unrestricted license. Drivers applying for a full unrestricted license must have held a restricted license for 1 year and have no traffic offenses or have ever been involved in any at-fault collisions.
Driver education is required for all license applicants under age 17.
Driver's License Issuance/Application
Every application for a driver’s license or permit must: (1) be made upon the form furnished by the Department; (2) be accompanied by the proper fee and any identification required by the Department; (3) contain the full name, date of birth, sex, race, and residence address of the applicant and briefly describe the applicant; (4) state whether the applicant has been licensed as an operator or chauffeur and, if so, when and by what state or country; and (5) state whether a license or permit has been suspended or revoked or whether an application has been refused and, if so, the date of and reason for the suspension, revocation, or reason for refusal.
School attendance is a requirement for the issuance of a conditional license. The Department may not issue a license to a person unless the person has a high school diploma or certificate, or a General Education Development Certificate, or is enrolled in a public or private school which has been approved by the State Board of Education or a member school of the South Carolina Independent School’s Association, a parochial, denominational, church-related school, or other programs which are accepted by the State Board of Education. Also to obtain a conditional license a person must do the following: (1) conform to the attendance laws, regulations, and policies of the school, school district, and the State Board of Education, as applicable; and (2) the person must not be suspended or expelled from school.
The Department may issue a special restricted driver’s license to a person who is between 16 years of age and 17 years of age, who has held a beginner’s permit for 180 days and who has successfully passed the road test or other requirements the Department may require. The special restricted driver’s license allows the license holder to operate a vehicle between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. (or 8 p.m. during daylight savings time). The holder of a special restricted driver’s license may not drive between midnight and 6 a.m., unless accompanied by the holder’s licensed parent or guardian. The restrictions on a special restricted license may be modified or waived by the Department if the restricted licensee proves to the Department’s satisfaction that the restriction interferes with the license holder’s employment, opportunity for employment, or ability to attend school.
License includes a color photograph. Social security number is not displayed on license.
The following persons do not have to obtain a beginner’s/learner’s permit to operate a motor vehicle: (1) students regularly enrolled in a South Carolina high school that conducts a driver’s training course while the student is participating in the course and when accompanied by a qualified instructor of the course; and (2) a person 15 years or older enrolled in a driver training course conducted by a licensed driver training school. This person must be accompanied by an instructor of the school and can only drive the school’s automobile.
The expiration dates on non-citizens’ driver’s licenses and I.D. cards are linked to the expiration date of the person’s visa.
Driver's License Renewal
Every license expires on the licensee’s birth date on the 10th year after the year in which the license was issued. Persons who are 65 years of age or older must renew every 5 years. Every license is renewable on or before its expiration date by filling out an application and the payment of the required fee.
The Department requires all applicants to take a vision test. The vision examination can be waived if the license holder submits a certificate from a person authorized by law to examine eyes.
The Department may renew a driver’s license of a resident by mail upon payment of the required fee, if the renewal is a digitized license.
Any person licensed to drive a motor vehicle in this state who is involved in 4 accidents in any 24-month period, may, at the discretion of the Department, be required to take any portion of the driver’s license examination. Any person who has had 4 accidents and fails to submit to such test within 30 days after having been notified by the Department will have his or her driver’s license suspended until he or she takes and passes the examination.
Any valid driver’s license issued to a person on active duty out of the state, or the person’s spouse, is effective without requirement for renewal until 90 days after the date of the person’s discharge from the service, or if the licensee has applied for an extension 90 days after the date the person returns to the state.
Types of Driver's Licenses
Class D vehicles are passenger vehicles and all non-commercial vehicles that do not exceed 26,000 lbs. Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW).
Class E vehicles are non-commercial single unit vehicles that do not exceed 26,000 lbs. GVW.
Class F vehicles are non-commercial combination vehicles that exceed 26,000 lbs. GVW.
Class M vehicles are motorcycles.
Class G vehicles are mopeds.