Licensing Process

South Carolina uses a multi-stage licensing process for teens that has several paths, depending on the teen’s age. It is one of the more complex systems in the country, but allows teens to gradually gain exposure to complex driving situations, easing them into driving over an extended period of time.

Beginner’s Permit

When your teen turns 15, the teen may apply for a beginner’s permit. You or a guardian will need to accompany the teen to your local Department of Motor Vehicle’s licensing office and bring your teen’s birth certificate, Social Security card, proof of residency and insurance information. Once the teen passes the written driver’s knowledge test and a vision test, your teen will be given a beginner’s permit.

A beginner’s permit lets your teen drive from 6 a.m. to midnight with a licensed driver who is at least 21 years old and has at least one year of driving experience and rides in the front seat. Your teen may drive from midnight to 6 a.m. if a licensed parent or guardian rides in the front seat.

Conditional Driver’s LICENSE

A teen who is at least 15 and has held a beginner’s permit for at least 180 days may apply for a conditional driver’s license. To get a conditional license, the teen must have held a beginner’s permit for at least 180 days and have practiced driving for at least 40 hours, including 10 hours during darkness. Your teen will need a parent or legal guardian to sign the application, and proof must be shown of having completed a driver education course and of satisfactory school attendance. The teen will need to pass the driving test at a DMV office.

With a conditional license, your teen may drive alone during daylight hours – from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. (until 8 p.m. during Daylight Savings Time). Your teen may drive in the evening (until midnight) with a licensed adult who is at least age 21, but may only drive after midnight with a parent or guardian. Your teen is restricted to no more than two passengers under age 21, unless accompanied by a licensed driver age 21 or older. The only exceptions to the passenger limit are for family members and for transporting students to and from school.

Special Restricted Driver’s License

When your teen turns 16 and has had a beginner’s permit for at least 180 days, the teen is eligible for a special restricted driver’s license. The requirements for this stage of license are the same as for a conditional license.

A special restricted driver’s license carries the same restrictions on driving alone as the conditional license, with one exception. A teen can get a waiver from the night limits from DMV to allow travel between home, school, vocational training or employment opportunities. Your teen will have to submit two separate statements from a parent or legal guardian and a statement on letterhead from the teen’s employer or school official.

Your teen can obtain full driving privileges at the age of 17 if he or she has had a special restricted driver’s license for one year and has had no traffic offenses or been involved in any at-fault accidents.  If your teen is younger than 17 and accrues six or more points on the driving record before having held the license for one year, the license will be suspended for six months.


Obtaining a regular driver’s license requires your teen to be at least 17 years old and to have held a beginner’s permit for at least 180 days. A parent or guardian will have to sign the application. If your teen is over the age of 18 you do not need a parent or guardian signature. Your teen will need to bring the permit and must pass the vision and road skills tests.


The South Carolina Department of Transportation, through its Department of Motor Vehicles is in charge of licensing for all drivers in South Carolina. The SCDMV conducts the written exam and road test needed to get a driver’s license. It also provides study materials to help your teen get ready for the exams.

Consider using a parent-teen driving agreement to help enforce licensing rules that the state and your family set. An agreement helps you and your teen understand the rules of the road and sends a clear message that driving is an earned privilege that your family takes seriously.