In this article, the Charleston injury attorneys of Futeral & Nelson explain South Carolina’s motorcycle laws by answering frequently asked questions. Whether you just got your first bike or have been riding for years, it is important to know the laws that apply to you. While this article gives general information, you should contact an attorney if you have a specific question.

Do I Need to Wear a Helmet in South Carolina?

South Carolina doesn’t require motorcycle drivers or passengers who are 21 or older to wear helmets. People under 21 must wear helmets. The helmets must be approved by the Department of Public Safety, must have a neck or chin strap, and have reflectors on both sides. If leaving the state, be aware that North Carolina and Georgia have helmet laws for adults, so check with a lawyer in those states if you need to know the exact requirements. People under 21 must also wear goggles or face screens unless the motorcycle has a wind screen approved by the Department of Public Safety. That is the legal answer to the helmet question.

Even though it’s not against the law for riders over 21, please wear a helmet when you ride. Even the safest rider in the world can have their life turned upside down in a split second due to someone else’s carelessness.

Do I Need to Have a Special Driver’s License for a Motorcycle in South Carolina?

Yes, you must obtain a Class M license from the Department of Motor Vehicles.

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Are There Any Special Traffic Laws for Motorcycles in South Carolina?

Yes. First, know that motorcycles are required to follow all of the same laws as cars. They also have just as much right to be on the road as cars. There are a few additional laws regarding motorcycles that don’t apply to cars, and many of the ones you should know are listed below. Violations of these laws can result in traffic citations, fines, or even criminal penalties.

  • You can only ride while sitting upon the permanent, regular seat.
  • To carry a passenger, you must have a motorcycle designed for a passenger, and the passenger can only ride on a permanent, regular seat designed for 2 people, or upon another seat firmly attached to the rear or side of the driver. Unless the passenger is in a sidecar or enclosed cab, the motorcycle must have footrests for the passenger.
  • You must ride facing forward with one leg on each side of the bike.
  • You can’t carry a package, bag, or other item that will prevent you from keeping both hands on the handlebars.
  • You can’t carry a passenger in a position that interferes with your control or view.
  • A motorcycle can’t pass a vehicle in the same lane occupied by that vehicle.
  • You are entitled to the full use of your lane, and it is a traffic violation for another vehicle to deprive you full use of your lane.
  • You can’t ride between lanes or between adjacent rows of vehicles. Don’t cut!
  • If you are riding with others, you can only ride 2 bikes wide in a lane.
  • You can’t attach yourself or your bike, or hold onto, another bike or vehicle on the road.
  • The motorcycle must have a rear view mirror with good view of what’s behind.
  • You must keep your headlights on.

The super-secret stoplight rule: If you come to a red light, after being at a full and complete stop for at least 120 seconds, you may proceed through the red light as if it were a stop sign. This law is found in the South Carolina Code of Laws, Section 56-5-970(c)(5). Be careful if you use this law, as anyone coming from other directions likely have a green light and won’t be looking out for you. Plus, there’s a chance that a police officer sees you but disagrees with your timing of the 120 seconds.

Can I Get a DUI on a Motorcycle in South Carolina?

Yes. Don’t drink and drive a motorcycle or you are subject to criminal penalties, potential civil liability and severe personal injuries. If you find yourself charged with a DUI, schedule a consultation with a DUI attorney at Futeral & Nelson immediately.

What if I am in an accident on a motorcycle in South Carolina?

Motorcycle accidents can be very bad. If you are injured in a motorcycle accident, call the attorneys at Futeral & Nelson for a consultation. We have described motorcycle accidents in more detail here.

Do I Need to Obtain Insurance for My Motorcycle?

Yes, motorcycles are required to obtain insurance just as automobiles. When purchasing this coverage, you should strongly consider purchasing UIM coverage as well, which is for YOUR protection. We explain minimum required auto coverage and UIM coverage in more detail here. 

Also, check with your insurance company to see if you can get an insurance rate discount for completing a motorcycle safety instruction course. Either way, you should really consider taking a safety course if you are going to ride a motorcycle on public highways.

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Charleston Motorcycle Accident Attorneys

REMEMBER – SAFETY FIRST. Hopefully you never need us, but if you have any criminal charges or personal injuries resulting from your riding on a motorcycle, you should call and set a consultation with the an attorney at Futeral & Nelson. Enjoy your ride!

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