If you are in love with the South Carolina regular passenger vehicle license plate with the sunrise that promotes “TRAVEL2SC.COM,” you should prepare yourself for an eventual break-up.
Just like the “Smiling Faces, Beautiful Places” plate that disappeared in 2008, these plates will be phased out by 2018, replaced by the new indigo-and-white plate now visible on an increasing number of cars in the state.
The change comes as a surprise to new residents who get a replacement tag, especially when they just registered their vehicle and got the older tag.
Former California resident and new South Carolinian Gary Sherman signed up for the “In God We Trust” plate. Within a few months of affixing and memorizing his tag number, he was issued a replacement.
When he called about the new tag and asked what to do about the old one, he was told to throw it out.
“I thought it was a waste of money,” Sherman said. “I have a ’56 Chevy that had a ’56 California yellow plate with black letters until I moved here. No tag expires out there. I thought, ‘Why not leave well enough alone’?”
The South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles is required to replace the plates every 10 years in accordance with current legislation. This isn’t a new process. It has been going on since the state issued its first plates in 1917.
“The regular passenger plate design historically has changed every seven years,” said Jean Smolen of the department’s Strategic Communications and Community Affairs office. Now, tags are replaced every 10 years due to wear and tear and possible visibility issues.
“The previous sunrise plate was introduced in 2008 and is now being phased out with the new ‘While I Breathe I Hope’,” she added.
The design is the traditional palmetto tree and crescent moon with a translation of the Latin motto “Dum Spiro Spero” that appears on the Great Seal of South Carolina.
The new design was a collaboration between SCDMV and the governor’s office, Smolen said.
It costs $10.82 to make a license plate, according to Smolen. The South Carolina Code of Laws mandates that a portion of the fees paid for vehicle registration and licensing must be placed by the Comptroller General in a special restricted account to be used solely by the Department of Motor Vehicles for the costs associated with the production and issuance of new license plates.
As of December 2015, according to statistics on www.scdmvonline.com, there were 3,724,946 licensed drivers and 4,336,240 registered vehicles in the state of South Carolina.
Letter and number combinations are limitless. Smolen said used combinations are recycled as necessary.
In addition to new designs on the regular license plate, drivers may choose from more than 150 specialty tags in the license plate gallery. The options include several disability tags; military choices, including medal awardees and conflict veterans; colleges and universities around the country; sports teams; organizations such as the Beaufort Water Festival and the Heritage Classic Foundation; and specialty plates for groups like sororities, ham radio operators or square dancers.
For more information on license plates, go to www.scdmvonline.com or visit your local DMV office.
Gwyneth J. Saunders is a veteran journalist and freelance writer living in Bluffton.