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Motorcycle Laws in South Carolina

When you choose to ride a motorcycle or dirt bike, knowing and following the general rules of the road as well as the many South Carolina laws that apply specifically to motorcycle riding can keep you safe. You will also need to know these laws in order to take the knowledge test at a South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles examining office in order to qualify for a Class M motorcycle license. If you already have your Class M license, we recommend reading through the S.C. Driver’s Manual again to brush up on your knowledge of these laws. Knowing and abiding by these laws can help to keep you safe and prevent a motorcycle accident.

Here, we review several important South Carolina motorcycle laws. At The Jeffcoat Firm, we know even the safest and most responsible motorcycle riders can get into collisions due to the carelessness of others on the road. If you have been hurt in a motorcycle crash due to someone else’s fault near Columbia, Lexington, Orangeburg, Blythewood, or anywhere in South Carolina, we can work to hold the other driver responsible and pursue the compensation you deserve. Contact us today to learn more.

Motorcycle Laws Table of Contents

Helmets and Other Rider Safety Equipment

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

  • Helmet – Motorcycle helmets must be approved by the S.C. Department of Public Safety. The helmet must also have a neck or chin strap and be “reflectorized” on both sides.
  • Eye protection – Motorcycle riders are required to wear eye protection when operating a motorcycle or dirt bike. 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. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that motorcycle helmets saved 1,872 lives in the U.S. in 2017 and could have saved an additional 749 lives if all motorcyclists had worn their helmets at the time of their crash. In South Carolina, specifically, helmets saved 26 lives and could have saved 38 more motorcyclists if they had been wearing them, according to the NHTSA.

Besides a helmet and goggles, there is other protective gear that can be worn:

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

This gear may provide additional protection in a motorcycle wreck.

Bike Specifications

In addition to the protective gear you wear when riding a motorcycle or dirt bike, your motorcycle must also be properly outfitted. If you don’t have the right equipment and meet state 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
  • A functional seat (if you plan to carry passengers)
  • At least one side mirror
  • 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, having signals on your bike – especially if you ride in the dark or at times when visibility is low can make you more visible to other vehicles. Additionally, in South Carolina, you are not required to have a muffler. There is no limit to how loud your engine can be.

Dirt Bikes and Off-Road Riding

South Carolina currently has few laws restricting motorcyclists from riding off the road or riding dirt bikes offroad. However, there are a few key safety considerations to be aware of. For instance, if your motorcycle is not equipped with the right kind of tires, brakes, and suspension for off-road riding, you could damage your bike or motorcycle, and you could end up getting hurt.

South Carolina Dirt Bike Laws

It is important to note that South Carolina does have some dirt bike laws in addition to its motorcycle laws. Here in South Carolina, riders under the age of 16 are only permitted to ride a dirt bike offroad when accompanied by an adult.

It can be illegal to ride many stock dirt bikes on public roads or in neighborhoods in South Carolina. Because they are designed for offroad use, they’re may not equipped with the necessary safety features to be ridden on public roads. In order to modify a dirt bike to be considered “dual-purpose”, it will need to be outfitted with necessary safety equipment, including:

  • A headlight
  • A taillight
  • A rearview mirror
  • A horn

Once the dirt bike is modified to be considered dual-purpose, it will need to be titled and registered, and the rider will need a driver’s license with a motorcycle endorsement in order to be considered street legal.

Rules of the Road

Motorcyclists have the same basic rights as any motor 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 completely leaving your lane and occupying the next lane over – not just buzzing around you within your lane.

Lane Splitting

Lane splitting, also known as whitelining or stripe-riding, 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 moves the bike in between the sides of two other vehicles. While arguably a safety measure, it is still illegal in South Carolina.
  • Car splits lane with a 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. To register your car or motorcycle in South Carolina, your insurance must have the following minimum coverage limits:

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

This is the absolute bare minimum insurance that you must carry by law here in South Carolina.

Many other drivers carry only the minimum amounts of insurance or, in violation of the law, they have no insurance at all. Having uninsured motorist/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage can help provide another layer of insurance to protect you if an underinsured or uninsured driver injures you.

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 in a motorcycle or dirt bike accident and need help, contact us to schedule a free consultation with an experienced South Carolina injury lawyer.


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1333 Main St #510,
Columbia, SC 29201
Main Office


5465 Sunset Blvd Suite B,
Lexington, SC 29072


161 Elliott St SE Suite B,
Orangeburg, SC 29115


749-2 University Village Dr,
Blythewood, SC 29016


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The Jeffcoat Firm Injury & Accident Lawyers

1333 Main St #510,
Columbia, SC 29201

(803) 373-1668

The Jeffcoat Firm Injury & Accident Lawyers

5465 Sunset Blvd Suite B,
Lexington, SC 29072

(803) 373-1302

The Jeffcoat Firm Injury & Accident Lawyers

161 Elliott St SE Suite B,
Orangeburg, SC 29115

(803) 373-7593

The Jeffcoat Firm Injury & Accident Lawyers

749-2 University Village Dr,
Blythewood, SC 29016

(803) 592-6553

! NOTICE ! No Legal Advice Intended. This website includes general information about legal issues and developments in the law. Such materials are for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments. These informational materials are not intended, and must not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. You need to contact a lawyer licensed in your jurisdiction for advice on specific legal issues or problems.

Files are primarily handled in our main office in Columbia.

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