Motorcycle Laws in South Carolina

When you are a motorcyclist, you need to know and follow the general rules of the road as well as the many South Carolina laws that apply specifically to motorcycle riding. You will need to know these laws in order to take the knowledge test at a S.C. Department of Motor Vehicles examining office and to qualify for a Class M motorcycle license. If you already have your Class M license, then you may want to read through the S.C. Driver’s Manual again and brush up on your knowledge of these laws. Knowing these laws should help to keep you safe and avoid getting into a motorcycle accident.

Here, we review several specific South Carolina motorcycle laws that you should know. At The Jeffcoat Firm, we know that even the safest and most responsible motorcycle riders can get into collisions due to the negligence of others on the road. If you have been hurt in a motorcycle crash in Columbia, Lexington or surrounding communities, we will help you to hold that other driver responsible and pursue the compensation that you deserve. Contact us today to learn more.

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Helmets and Other Rider Safety Equipment

If you are a motorcycle rider under the age of 21, South Carolina law requires that you wear two pieces of equipment:

  • Helmet – It must be approved by the S.C. Department of Highways and Public Transportation. It must also have a neck or chin strap and be “reflectorized” on both sides.
  • Eye protection – Goggles or a face shield attached to the helmet can satisfy this requirement.

If you are over the age of 21, you are not required by law to wear a helmet or eye protection. However, for purposes of safety, you should really consider doing so. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that motorcycle helmets saved 1,859 lives in the U.S. in 2016 and could have saved an additional 802 lives if all motorcyclists had worn their helmets at the time of their crash. In South Carolina, specifically, helmets saved 31 lives and could have saved 50 more motorcyclists if they had been wearing them, according to the NHTSA.

You should also think about the other gear that you wear. Because you lack any structural protection when you are on a motorcycle, this gear may provide your only protection in a wreck. Some suggestions are:

  • Sturdy gloves
  • Ankle-high boots
  • Long-sleeved shirt
  • A jacket made of tough material (leather or leather-like synthetic material).

Bike Specifications

In addition to the gear you wear, your motorcycle must also be properly outfitted. If you don’t have the right equipment and meet specifications, your motorcycle will not be “street legal.” Also, a poorly equipped bike may simply be unsafe on the road. Consider a few things that your bike must have:

  • Footrests or pegs and a functional seat (if you plan to carry passengers)
  • At least one side mirror
  • Headlight (South Carolina permits a modulating headlight).

You may be surprised to learn that turn signals are not required on motorcycles in South Carolina. You can simply use arm and hand signals. Still, it is a good idea to have signals on your bike – especially if you ride in the dark or at times when visibility is low. Additionally, in South Carolina, you are not required to have a muffler. There is no limit on how loud your engine can be.

Off-Road Riding

South Carolina has few laws restricting motorcyclists from riding off the road. However, you should be aware of a few important safety considerations. For instance, if your motorcycle is not equipped with the right kind of tires, brakes, and suspension for off-road riding, then don’t do it. You will only damage your motorcycle, and you could end up getting hurt. Also, dirt bikes and other off-road bikes are uncomfortable to ride on the road – especially for long distances.

Rules of the Road

Motorcyclists have the same basic rights as vehicle drivers. If you ride a motorcycle in South Carolina, you are allowed to use the whole lane. In fact, you are to be treated just like any other motor vehicle driver. For instance, if you approach an intersection to go straight, and someone is attempting to turn left from oncoming traffic, that driver must stop and yield the right of way to you. Additionally, other drivers are required to pass you by actually leaving your lane and occupying the next lane over – not just buzzing around you in your lane.

Lane Splitting

This practice is the subject of controversy. Lane splitting occurs when a motorcycle shares a lane with another vehicle. This can happen in three general ways:

  • Motorcyclist splits the lane with a car – This typically happens in heavy traffic, where the motorcycle rider does not want to get pinned between cars. The rider just moves the bike in between other vehicles to be safer. While arguably a safety measure, it is still illegal in South Carolina.
  • Car splits lane with motorcycle – This type of lane splitting happens when a driver tries to share the same lane with a motorcycle. It is also illegal in South Carolina.
  • Two motorcycles share a lane – This form of lane splitting is perfectly legal. Up to two motorcycles can ride abreast in the same lane, side-by-side, on South Carolina roads.

Insurance Rules

Whether you ride a motorcycle or drive a car, you must carry liability insurance in South Carolina. This insurance pays for the bodily injury and property damage that you cause others to suffer in an accident. To register your car or motorcycle in South Carolina, your insurance must have the following minimum limits:

  • $25,000 for bodily injury (per person)
  • $50,000 for bodily injury (per accident)
  • $25,000 for property damage (per accident).

Of course, this is the bare minimum insurance that you must carry. You may want to consider carrying higher amounts of liability insurance in order to protect yourself if you should ever be the one responsible for a collision.

Additionally, you should consider the fact that many other drivers carry only the minimum amounts of insurance or, in violation of the law, they have no insurance at all. To protect yourself in a motorcycle crash that another driver causes, you may want consider carrying uninsured motorist/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage as well.

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No upfront costs to you or your family. We recover maximum compensation for our clients.

Get Help from a South Carolina Motorcycle Accident Attorney

For more than 20 years, The Jeffcoat Firm has fought for injured motorcyclists and their passengers throughout South Carolina. If you have been hurt and need help, contact us to schedule a free consultation with an experienced lawyer who will look you in the eye, give you honest, frank advice, and be genuinely concerned about both your case and your well-being.


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