History of DMV
The first 100+ years of automobile travel have brought major changes to America's lifestyle in terms of convenience and safety. When motor vehicle regulation began in New York State in 1901, only 954 vehicles were registered. Today, there are over 12.5 million registered vehicles and over 10 million licensed drivers in New York State alone. This rapid growth brought with it a need for new traffic safety laws. Since highway travel affects every American in one way or another, motor vehicles regulation is necessary to insure the safety of drivers, pedestrians, cyclists, and all other users of public roads. In New York State, the registering of vehicles (since 1901) and the licensing of drivers (since 1903) were first handled by the Secretary of State. In 1921, these functions were transferred to the State Tax Commission, and county clerks were authorized to open local motor vehicles offices for the convenience of the public.
In 1924, a Bureau of Motor Vehicles, with its own commissioner, was created within the Tax Commission to handle the growing need for traffic safety regulation. On January 1, 1961, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) came into being as an independent unit of State government. In administering the Vehicle and Traffic Law, the Department regulates a broad range of activities: driver training, testing, licensing, and rehabilitation; vehicle transfer, registration; auto theft detection; vehicle equipment regulation; traffic safety research; assistance with consumer complaints; and, in some areas, the inspection of vehicle exhaust emissions and the hearing of traffic infraction cases, among other matters.