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Driving and Commuting

Driving and Commuting

JRB New Orleans_2019 Getting To & Around Driving and Commuting


Lowcountry residents have been busily laying down roads since their arrival in 1670, so by now the region is spiderwebbed with interstates, U.S. and state highways, county roads and municipal streets.

Interstate 26 has the fast track northwest, intersecting with north-south I-95 approximately 30 miles out of North Charleston. I-26 begins in the heart of downtown Charleston at U.S. Highway 17 and heads northwest through North Charleston past Hanahan, Goose Creek and Summerville on its way to a brief whirl through the “Malfunction Junction” cloverleaf in state capital Columbia, then continues northwest across North Carolina and Tennessee to just south of the Tennessee-Virginia state line. Back in Charleston, I-526 is a horseshoe bypass that begins and ends at different ends of U.S. 17; I-526 Business, the bypass’s eastern end, crosses the Wando River and winds up in Berkeley County’s Mount Pleasant.

North-south U.S. 17 enters South Carolina from Georgia, northeast of Savannah, then the main highway runs vaguely parallel to the coast to cross the Edisto River into Charleston County, where it becomes a four-lane through Charleston until it exits the state near Calabash, North Carolina, on the Atlantic. Locally, U.S. 17 reaches the northern part of the Charleston peninsula by way of the Ashley River drawbridges, then crosses the Cooper River via the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge. It leaves the area via Mount Pleasant and numerous red lights before slipping quietly into the Francis Marion National Forest and continuing northeast.

U.S. 52 is a northwest-southeast highway, passing from the U.S. into Canada at Portal, North Dakota, and ending its drop eastward at Charleston Harbor by way of Moncks Corner, Goose Creek and North Charleston. U.S. 78 goes west to east from Memphis to Charleston; it comes into South Carolina at Augusta, Georgia, then continues east, passing through Dorchester County as far as I-26, which it parallels into downtown Charleston.

Several state highways help carry Charleston-area traffic, including state routes 7, 30, 61, 171 and 700.

The South Carolina Department of Transportation provides free, real-time traffic information. Registered users can also create a personalized profile to receive text or email updates about incidents on their specified routes at

South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles

Driver’s licenses, identification cards, vehicle registration and other driving-related services are provided by the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles. The department has several offices in Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester counties; visit to find a location near you. Find many of the required forms and general information at

Driver’s Licenses

Military personnel and their spouses who are stationed in South Carolina from elsewhere may continue to drive with a valid driver’s license from their home state, but in general, all South Carolina residents who want to drive must apply for a driver’s license once residency is established.

The state spells out what is required for licensing under various scenarios in its South Carolina Driver’s Manual, which can be found at

Vehicle Registration

Information associated with driving and vehicle registration is available online at, including DMV forms, requests for driving records and more.

Military members and veterans may be entitled to certain DMV exemptions and allowances. For more information on military and veteran exceptions and requirements, visit

In general, those who purchase a new or used vehicle or move to South Carolina from another state must apply for a new vehicle title and registration. For more information, visit

Distracted Driving

South Carolina does not prohibit drivers from making calls on handheld wireless telephones while operating a motor vehicle, though some communities do. Texting while driving is banned statewide.

South Carolina Department of Transportation

Motorists can find up-to-date information about road closures and conditions, travel advisories, construction projects and evacuation routes on the department’s website.

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