Automotive Title Company (ATC) works with the DMV every day and we think it gets a bad rap. Sure, it can be frustrating working through the red tape and bureaucracy, but the reason the DMV was conceived was to keep us all safe. With that in mind, we thought that a history of the DMV could help create more appreciation for it.

When cars began to appear on American roads in the early 20th century, there were no real requirements for owners to acquire a license, or drive safely, in many parts of the country. For example, in some states, motorists only had to say they had read their state’s traffic laws and knew how to operate the car. Absolutely no proof was necessary!

Of course, tragedies happened because people who never really bothered to learn how to operate a car or navigate roads filled with other cars, horses, carriages, bicycles, and curious onlookers, ended up causing numerous injuries and deaths.

At the time, automobiles were extremely expensive and unaffordable for most of the population, so car owners were wealthy and believed that the rules didn’t apply to them. Newspapers began writing sensational articles about “death on wheels” and “automobile scorchers” and portrayed cars, and the people that drove them, as killing machines.

There was a growing need to establish rules and regulations to regulate how cars interacted with other participants in traffic and on the streets and roads to ensure the safety of pedestrians and cyclists. The earliest rules were impractical, such as rules to only drive in daylight, or carry a red flag in front of a car to warn others that it was approaching. As the number of motor vehicles grew, new sets of laws were enacted requiring owners to obtain license plates for their vehicles and a driver’s license for themselves. That was the beginning of the process to register vehicles and license drivers.

The DMV was born.

The idea for the DMV was to provide the public with the highest level of motor vehicle safety and collect revenue to be used for transportation related matters. An additional function of the DMV was, and still is, to maintain motor vehicle related records. Today, these procedures are handled by state government agencies, collectively known as the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

Over time, the DMV has increased its range of activities and responsibilities. It is still responsible for regulating traffic safety, driver training, testing, and licensing, and motor vehicle registration. In the 1960s, smog control devices were mandatory for first-time registrations, and in the 1970s, DMVs began issuing personalized license plates.

With the emergence of the Internet, the DMV has started offering online services such as handling traffic citations, insurance transactions, driver’s license violation point record-keeping, license status checks, etc.

Auto Titling Company (ATC) exists to provide accurate tax, title, and registration fee information to make the car buying experience easier for shoppers and more profitable for dealers, lenders, and auto technology companies. We work with every DMV, in every jurisdiction in the country, to make it easier for you to sell cars. To learn more, reach out to [email protected].