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South Carolina Drivers Education

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To drive a vehicle in South Carolina, you must have a valid driver’s license. Those who are first starting to drive obtain a beginner’s permit. Beginning drivers go through a graduated license program that varies depending upon their age. Additional educational programs provide further instruction to those who have violated traffic laws and to those who want to learn defensive driving techniques.

Testing and Preparing to Drive

You must pass a test before obtaining a driver’s license in South Carolina. First, you take the knowledge test and a vision test to obtain a beginner’s permit. The beginner’s permit provides an opportunity to practice driving from 6 a.m. to midnight with an adult, 21 years or older, and at least one year of driving experience in the front seat with you. If you have no experience driving, you’ll have to keep the beginner’s permit for six months before advancing regardless of your age.

The path to a regular driver’s license after the beginner’s permit varies with age. Adults older than 17 may obtain a conditional driver’s license after holding the beginner’s permit for the minimum period of time, logging at least 40 hours of driving practice time, and passing a road test. A conditional driver’s license has some limitations, such as requiring that you be accompanied by a fully licensed driver when driving between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. If you have no traffic citations, you move automatically to a regular driver’s license when you’ve held the conditional and beginner’s license for a total of one year combined. The license will come in the mail; there’s no need to reapply.

Teen Graduated License Program

Teens, however, have a more complicated process. They also receive a beginner’s permit, however, a teen must complete additional steps to receive a conditional license. They must complete a state-approved driver’s ed program and remain in school, in addition to completing the practice driving time and passing the road test. After the conditional license, you receive a special restricted license. You can apply to have some restrictions of the conditional license removed, with parental consent while holding a restricted license. Generally, to have the restrictions removed, you must have proof that you have a job or participate in extracurricular activities that require you to drive alone between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.

When you turn 17, if you currently have a special restricted license and have no citations, you receive a full license in the mail automatically.

Remedial Driver Programs

Drivers can complete an eight-hour defensive driving course offered by the National Safety Council to reduce points on their record; however, if the driver’s license is already suspended, completion of the course will not remove the suspension.

If your driver’s license is suspended, the court will determine what you must do to have it reinstated. For example, if your license was suspended for alcohol offenses, the court may require you to take a drug safety course and have an ignition interlock device installed.

Defensive Driving Courses

Defensive driving courses are voluntary. Senior citizens or others may opt to take them to improve their driving and save on insurance. Businesses offer these courses; before taking them, check with insurance to be sure they will accept that particular course. 

DMV.com: How to Apply for a New Drivers License in South Carolina

Last Verified:
Sep 8, 2022