This article provides a brief introduction to the South Carolina motorcycle laws designed to keep riders safe, and what motorcyclists injured in accidents can do to protect their legal rights to recover damages they suffer as a result of an accident.
South Carolina Motorcycle Accident Statistics Show Why Laws Are Important
According to the South Carolina Department of Public Safety, one motorcyclist is killed every three days in South Carolina. In one year, the state had 123 fatal motorcycle accidents and 434 serious injury motorcycle collisions, and almost 21,000 motorcycles were involved in accidents.
Every year, the failure of riders to wear helmets contributes to fatal and life-altering accidents. More than half of motorcyclists in South Carolina don’t wear helmets. The World Health Organization estimates estimates that helmets could reduce the chances of fatal injury for motorcycle accident victims by 42 percent, and reduce the chances of serious injury by 69 percent. Using a helmet is not a guarantee of safety, but a rider is much safer wearing one. The high rate of motorcycle riders who don’t use helmets in South Carolina contributes to higher fatality and serious injury rates.
You must understand the laws around motorcycle driving in South Carolina. With how common accidents are, and the serious injuries that can occur, those who ride motorcycles, especially, need to be aware of the laws, as following them is one of the most important ways to avoid accidents, injuries, and deaths.
General Motorcycle Laws In South Carolina
South Carolina has a host of motorcycle laws designed to keep motorcycle riders safe, no matter where they are. Following these laws can allow riders to enjoy the freedom of a ride in the open air while mitigating the dangers of serious injury or death.
Law #1: Display of License Plates
According to South Carolina Code Section 56 3 1240, motorcycles must display license plates, just like any other vehicle. Horizontally fix license plates on the outside rear of the bike. However, if the motorcycle comes with a vertical license plate mount, you can place the plates vertically as long as they are at least 12 inches above the ground and securely fastened. No other plates can be placed on a motorcycle to obscure the view of the license plate.
While a license plate law may seem minor, it ensures that a rider has received adequate training. If a rider gets on the road without a license plate, authorities can pull them over and eliminate the risk they pose to themselves and others.
Law #2: No Riding on Sidewalks
No vehicle in South Carolina, motorcycle or otherwise, may drive on a sidewalk. The only exception to this is to enter a permanent or authorized temporary driveway. Drivers are required to keep their vehicles on the designated roadways.
This law protects motorcycle riders and others on South Carolina roads and sidewalks, especially pedestrians, from injury. While a motorcycle might be able to fit on a sidewalk, and some may feel tempted to ride on a sidewalk when there is heavy road traffic, keeping on the roadways designated for vehicles keeps riders and pedestrians safe.
Law #3: Bumper Sticker Laws
In South Carolina, motorcycle riders are not allowed to display obscene stickers on their bumpers. Obscene bumper stickers could include indecent words, photographs, or depictions. Obscene images are not appropriate, based on contemporary community standards, and lack serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.
Breaking this law is punishable as a misdemeanor with a fine of up to $200. Having obscene stickers can distract other drivers, increasing the risk of accidents. Motorcycle riders must maintain a level of dignity and respect when they operate and decorate their bikes.
Law #4: Light Requirements
All motorcycles in South Carolina need proper lighting. A motorcycle needs at least one white light on the front of the vehicle. This light must be visible for at least 500 feet in front of the vehicle. A motorcycle must also have a rear light or reflector that shows red light at least 500 feet behind.
Proper lighting is essential to make motorcycles visible at all times. Motorcycles need proper lights so other drivers can see and react to them since their smaller frames make them more difficult to see.
Law #5: Motorcycle Lights
Motorcycles in South Carolina are generally required to have lights on at all times. Failing to use lights on a motorcycle is a misdemeanor and could result in a fine of $25 or imprisonment of 10 days.
One of the biggest reasons cars hit motorcyclists is because of their low visibility. Maintaining lights at all times so riders can easily see and be seen helps avoid accidents and deaths.
Law #6: Stop Lamp Requirements
South Carolina law requires every motorcycle to come with a stop lamp (brake light). This law is essential for alerting others, especially those behind a motorcycle, of when a motorcyclist intends to stop, slow down, turn, or change speed.
Law #7: Helmet Laws
South Carolina requires helmets and face shields or goggles for anyone under 21 on a motorcycle. Helmets must have chinstraps and cover all sides of the head. Adults 21 and over are allowed to ride motorcycles without helmets, though riding without a helmet is inadvisable, as it significantly increases the risk of serious or fatal injuries in the event of an accident.
Law #8: Proper Riding Form
All motorcyclists must ride using proper form. Riders must sit on the seat, must not carry packages or bundles that inhibit their riding, and should not carry more passengers than the motorcycle is designed for. Riders must use both handlebars and ride facing straight forward, straddling the motorcycle with one leg on each side.
The form restrictions on riding ensure rider balance and control to avoid accidents. Riding a motorcycle improperly or while carrying parcels or passengers that create distractions can easily lead to serious accidents.
Law #9: Lane Use
Motorcycles are entitled to use the width of a full lane on South Carolina roads. Motorcycles may not pass other drivers in the same lane. Two motorcycles may, however, ride abreast of one another in the same lane.
Law #10: Equipment
Motorcycles without a sidecar or enclosed cab must come with footrests for every rider and passenger. Motorcycles must have rearview mirrors, as well. The proper equipment required for motorcycles keeps riders and their passengers secure.
Motorcycle Permit Laws In South Carolina
Anyone 15 or older may obtain a permit to operate a motorcycle in South Carolina. You can get this permit if you have held another kind of permit for at least 180 days. You simply have to take a vision test and motorcycle knowledge test. You must then hold the permit for 180 days before you are allowed to apply for a license. Minors must bring an adult to sign a Consent for Minor form to obtain a learner’s permit.
These permit restrictions are in place to keep motorcycle riders safe, particularly keeping in mind age differences. Younger riders have little to no experience on motorcycles, and may be less careful in the way they ride at first. With help from older and more experienced drivers, young motorcycle riders can receive additional training to remain safe while operating a motorcycle.
You may not obtain and use a motorcycle permit more than three times. Every time you seek to renew your permit, you need to take the skills test. If you fail the skills test three times, you can no longer get a permit. Instead, you have to take a motorcycle safety class approved by the state and pass the skills test within that class.
Staying Safe on a Motorcycle
There are many laws around the proper use of motorcycles in South Carolina. These laws are in place to protect drivers from accidents. However, even motorcycle riders who follow the rules can end up in accidents due to the fault of another motorist. Drivers of other motor vehicles often fail to see motorcycles because motorcycles are smaller than other vehicles on the roads.
If you ride a motorcycle, you must do your best to remain safe by watching others. But if you do obey all laws and still run into an accident, you should know what to do to protect your legal right to pursue compensation.
There are a few steps you can and should take following an accident:.
- Get off the road, if possible. In doing so, you can remove yourself from the possibility of any further injury.
- Call an ambulance and/or seek medical care. No matter how minor your injuries may seem, seek medical attention to ensure that you are okay. Some injuries show up only hours later, after the initial shock of an accident has worn off. In any case, it’s best to identify and treat all injuries as soon as possible to avoid worse health outcomes.
- Call the police. Police musto report to accident scenes where there are injuries or significant damage. Having police show up can also be helpful, as you can have an official police report filed, complete with a description of the accident and witness statements, to help prove what happened once you bring a claim for compensation.
- Do what you can to collect evidence. If you are physically able and it is safe to do so, take photographs of your injuries and the damage resulting from the accident. Take pictures of the accident scene, capturing the position of the vehicles in relation to one another. Such pictures can be valuable evidence of what happened and the extent of your injuries.
- Talk to witnesses. Having eyewitness statements is one of the most important sources of evidence in any motorcycle accident claim. Third-party witnesses are more objective than the parties in the accident, and thus can lend you credibility. If you can, get contact information from witnesses. Talk with an attorney as soon as possible to help arrange to get witness statements.
- Call a motorcycle accident lawyer. If the motorcycle accident was not your fault, you shouldn’t be the one that has to pay for your medical expenses and other impacts. A motorcycle accident lawyer can use their knowledge and resources to help you build a strong case to recover compensation for the damages you’ve suffered.
Motorcycles Laws Help, But Can Not Always Prevent Accidents
Motorcycles are a lot of fun to ride. Many people love to get out on the roads with the freedom that a motorcycle provides. By following motorcycle laws, riders can significantly improve their safety. However, even motorcyclists who strictly follow laws and take other safety measures, such as wearing a helmet, can end up in serious accidents.
If you or a loved one were injured in a motorcycle accident you may be entitled to compensation to pay for medical costs, lost wages, and your damaged property, among other expenses and impacts. Seek out help from an experienced motorcycle accident attorney who can help you pursue justice and recover from a motorcycle accident.