What is South Carolina’s Graduated Drivers’ License program?

Upon receiving a conditional driver’s license, a teenager in South Carolina must abide by several specific restrictions until receiving a full license.

Immaturity and inexperience can be a bad combination when behind the wheel of a car, truck or other motor vehicle. Many South Carolina residents understandably share concerns about the safety of teenage drivers on the road. Too many serious injury and even fatal accidents have occurred due to these drivers, prompting states around the nation to take a fresh look at licensing teens.

The National Institute of Health notes that Graduated Drivers' License programs have now been instituted in every state. Fatal crashes involving teenage drivers have been reduced by 14 percent. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that all crashes involving teenage drivers have been reduced by as much as 50 percent.

As explained by the Governors Highway Safety Association, a Graduated Drivers' License program essentially outlines different and distinct phases through which teens must pass before being allowed to drive with no restrictions. The goal of these programs is improved safety for everyone.

When can a teen in South Carolina begin driving while supervised?

According to the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles, a teenager in the state can obtain a beginner's permit at the age of 15. This permit must be held for a minimum of 180 days, or roughly six months. During this time, the teen must complete an approved drivers' education course. A minimum of 40 hours of supervised driving, 10 of which must be during dark hours, have to be completed. The supervisor must be an adult with a valid license.

When can a teen in South Carolina begin driving alone?

After the 180-day beginner's permit phase has been completed and all associated criteria met, a teen may apply for a conditional driver's license. The teenager must be enrolled in school and successfully pass both a road and a vision test.

With a conditional license, a teen can do the following:

  • Drive with a parent or legal guardian between midnight and 6:00 a.m.
  • Drive with a licensed driver 21 or older between 8:00 p.m. and midnight during Daylight Savings Time or between 6:00 p.m. and midnight at other times.
  • Drive alone between 6:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. during Daylight Savings Time or between 6:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. at other times.
  • Have up to two passengers under the age of 21 at any time.

The passenger restrictions do have some exceptions. If another passenger at least 21 years of age is in a vehicle, there are no restrictions. Teens may also drive multiple persons under 21 to and from school if they are family members.

After holding a conditional license for one year without any at-fault accidents or moving violations, a teen may be granted unrestricted driving privileges.

What happens if a teen driver causes a crash?

The need for compensation by victims is no different when an accident is caused by a teenage driver than when an accident is caused by an adult. Talking to an attorney is important for anyone involved in these crashes.