The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is an agency that is in charge of everything related to vehicle registration and licensing drivers. It is a state agency, which means every US state has its own separate DMV, with its own set of rules and regulations. That is why these regulations may differ from state to state.
The DMV has many responsibilities in regards with motor vehicles, drivers and traffic in general. One of the main and most basic responsibilities of the DMV is issuing vehicle registrations and titles, which serve as a proof that you own the vehicle you drive.
Driving records are also handled by the DMV. They keep record of all traffic accidents and violations drivers commit and keep track of the suspension points on the driver's license.
When it comes to driver's licenses, they are essentially the main identification document for all US residents. DMVs have actually become the institutions in charge of issuing ID cards for people that don't drive a motor vehicle.
Apart from the aforementioned areas of responsibilities, the DMV is also authorized to enforce laws related to drivers and motor vehicles. Officers appointed by the DMV can check whether the vehicle you're driving is stolen, does it have valid license plates, and they also investigate whether inspection stations comply with all DMV regulations.
Furthermore, the written and practical driving tests that have to be taken when applying for a driver's license, are conducted by DMVs. They also have driving schools under their jurisdiction.
The beginnings of DMVs lie in the early twentieth century, when the first motor vehicles hit the streets in the US. As there were only horse-drawn carriages on the roads prior to that, there had to be new laws implemented that would regulate these new vehicles and their interaction with other participants in traffic and the safety of drivers and passengers.
Needles to say, DMVs have changed a lot over time. They have started offering new types of services so that they can become more efficient and keep up with the growing number of vehicles that people drive. As a result, more and more vehicles need to be registered, and more and more people need to get a driver's license. DMVs try to deal with the growing demand by implementing new technologies in their work, offering online services that help to reduce waiting times and process applications faster. You can now make DMV appointments online, which results in shorter waiting lines, and all that equals to less stress and saving precious time.