DMV announces amnesty for suspended drivers

astice@islandpacket.comJanuary 30, 2012 

Some drivers with suspended licenses could be back on the road sooner, thanks to a state Department of Motor Vehicles program in its second year.

Motorists who have lost their driving privileges because of certain infractions can have their suspension times reduced or the suspension cleared at all DMV offices across the state from March 5 through 9 and at six DMV offices that will be open March 10.

Drivers who have drug- or alcohol-related convictions will not be eligible for the program. Participation won't result in any fees being waived -- drivers still have to pay fines associated with their suspensions, according to DMV spokeswoman Beth Parks.

The suspensions also will remain on drivers' records, available to auto insurance companies, which use the information to set policy rates.

"What this really helps with is time," Parks said.

Suspensions usually range from three to six months, although some are indefinitely suspended for more serious infractions, Park said.

To qualify, drivers must meet all of the conditions of their suspensions, including paying fees and filing SR-22 insurance, if required. Those with multiple suspensions will have their suspension period recalculated by the DMV.

Depending on the type of suspension or if drivers' licenses have been expired for more than nine months, they might have to take the vision, knowledge and road-skills tests before getting a new license.

"We encourage customers who believe they qualify for this program to start getting ready now," DMV executive director Kevin Shwedo said. "Find out exactly what you have to do and get it done."

The program is mandated by state law. Last year, only 17 DMV offices across the state participated. More than 230 drivers with a total of 371 suspensions among them applied.

Because the response isn't expected to overwhelm smaller offices, the department is extending it to all DMV branches during the week, Parks said. Offices in Aiken, Charleston, Florence, Greenville, Lexington and Rock Hill will be open Saturday, March 10, from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Follow reporter Allison Stice at twitter.com/LCBlotter.

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