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Motorcycle Laws & Licensing for South Carolina, United States

Motorcycle Laws & Licensing for South Carolina, United States
    • Table of Contents

1. Introduction

Throughout the United States, there are general rules of the road that all motorcyclists must abide by in the interest of promoting safety and avoiding trouble with the law. Every rider has the common sense to go the posted speed limit, keep an eye on their surroundings, and stop at the traffic lights. But in states such as South Carolina, there may be additional or specific guidelines regarding what motorcyclists can or cannot do. Both novice and experienced riders would benefit from taking the time to review the latest version of South Carolina’s rules related to motorcyclist conduct.

This infographic will provide an overview of the essential motorcycle laws and a step-by-step explanation of the licensing process in the state of South Carolina.

2. South Carolina Motorcycle Insurance

Motorcyclists traveling through South Carolina must purchase South Carolina motorcycle insurance to be legally allowed to operate their vehicles within the state. Even the most skilled riders can make mistakes which result in an accident. An accident can cause severe damage to health and property which can result in hefty fines that could put a strain on finances. Getting South Carolina liability insurance coverage will help alleviate the financial burden and show that you can be financially responsible. If you are found liable for an accident, you must provide compensation to any affected parties. You must carry proof of ownership on your person or secured somewhere on your motorcycle. You must be able to prove you have South Carolina motorcycle insurance at traffic stops, accident scenes, and vehicle inspections.

Your South Carolina liability insurance coverage must be able to cover the minimum costs for the following accident-related fees:

  • $25,000 for bodily injury to a person per accident
  • $50,000 for bodily injuries to multiple people per accident
  • $25,000 for property damages sustained per accident

The purpose of your South Carolina liability insurance coverage is to offer compensation to other drivers involved in an accident. If you want to protect your health and property, you will need to acquire other forms of insurance coverage. Depending on specific circumstances that occur within an accident, you may want access to additional financial protection:

  • Uninsured coverage
  • Underinsured coverage
  • Collision coverage
  • Comprehensive coverage
  • Medical payment coverage

3. South Carolina Motorcycle Helmet Laws

It is mandatory for motorcyclists under the age of 21 to wear a motorcycle helmet while operating their vehicles. If you are 21 years old or above, you can opt to not wear a motorcycle helmet when riding your vehicle. However, this is not recommended as you can suffer severe or fatal injuries without a motorcycle helmet to protect your head or neck.

Because the majority of motorcyclists in South Carolina choose to have protective gear on at all time in recent years, the statistics have shown an improvement in reducing motorcycle fatalities in this state:

  • In 2017, there were 145 motorcycle fatalities on South Carolina’s roads and highways
  • In 2018, there were 142 motorcycle fatalities on South Carolina’s roads and highways
  • In 2019, there were 140 motorcycle fatalities on South Carolina’s roads and highways

An approved motorcycle helmet accepted in South Carolina must follow the safety parameters of both the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Department of Public Safety. The three types of models that meet the criteria provided above while providing protection and visibility are three-quarter, full-face, and half helmets. Full-face helmets have the best protection, three-quarter helmets have moderate protection, and half helmets have the least protection.

Listed in this table below are the features that your motorcycle helmet is required to have if you wish to operate a motorcycle in South Carolina:

South Carolina Motorcycle Helmet Laws

4. South Carolina Motorcycle License Laws

4.1 South Carolina Motorcycle Beginner’s Permit

You can begin applying for a South Carolina motorcycle beginner’s permit if you are at least 15 years old or above.

You will have to pay a fee of $2.50 to be issued a South Carolina motorcycle beginner’s permit which is valid for one year.

To be given the permit, you must complete the following tasks and fulfill all of the listed criteria:

  • Present valid identification documents
  • Have consent form filled out by parent or legal guardian if you are a minor
  • Provide proof of South Carolina residency
  • Provide proof of U.S. citizenship
  • Provide your Social Security Number
  • Pass the knowledge exam
  • Pass the vision exam
  • Pay the required fees

When you are operating with a South Carolina motorcycle learner’s permit, you will have to comply with the following restrictions as you practice:

  • You can practice unaccompanied from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Other times you must be supervised by a 21-year-old or older with a valid motorcycle license with at least one year of driving experience

4.2 South Carolina Motorcycle License

You are eligible to receive a South Carolina motorcycle license if you are at least 15 years old or above.

You will have to pay a fee of $12.50 to be issued a South Carolina motorcycle license that is valid for 4 years or less. Alternatively, you can pay a fee of $25 to be issued a South Carolina motorcycle license that is valid for 8 years or less.

Listed below are the requirements you will need to fulfill to obtain a South Carolina motorcycle endorsement. Depending on your age when you approach the final step, the list of criteria may differ between motorcyclists:

South Carolina Motorcycle License

*If you have no driving experience or have never previously owned a driver’s license, you will need to acquire a South Carolina motorcycle beginner’s permit first before you can be issued an official South Carolina motorcycle license.

*If you already have a valid driver’s license for a different class of vehicle, you can proceed with the South Carolina motorcycle license test without having to first get a South Carolina motorcycle beginner’s permit.

*If you show a certificate confirming you successfully completed a SCDMV-approved motorcycle safety course within 30 days, you have the option of waiving the road skills portion of the South Carolina motorcycle license test.

4.3 South Carolina Motorcycle License Test

Knowledge Portion:

  • Will be completed on touch-screen computers
  • Complete 30 multiple-choice questions
  • Questions will be based on content from South Carolina Motorcycle & Moped Operator’s Manual
  • Will be tested on understanding of road rules and safe riding practices
  • Requires a passing grade of 80% or higher

Riding Skills Portion:

  • Will be conducted in a controlled, off-street area
  • Your motorcycle will be subjected to a pre-ride inspection to ensure it meets safety standards
  • Demonstrate basic understanding of motorcycle operation
  • You will be tested on your ability to stay within the speed limit, adjusting speed and position, maintaining visibility, operating under stress, accelerating, braking, turning, stopping, and swerving
  • The examiner will grade you based on how well you ride at safe speeds, stay within the lanes, and demonstrate riding maneuvers

5. South Carolina Motorcycle Passenger Laws

In South Carolina, there is no minimum age requirement for motorcycle passengers. However, any passengers under the age of 21 must be wearing a motorcycle helmet when they are riding with you. Their motorcycle helmet must meet the criteria listed in the earlier section.

For it to be legal to carry a passenger, your motorcycle must be outfitted with equipment specifically designed to provide secure yet comfortable seating for one additional person. The required equipment will include a designated passenger seat, handholds, and footrests.

Since it is unsafe for the passenger to be seated in front of the driver’s seat, the designated passenger seat can only be placed on the sides or towards the rear of your motorcycle. There must be space between the driver and passenger seats to allow the passenger to extend their legs fully on both sides. This will also prevent the passenger from interfering with the operator’s ability to control the motorcycle. The designated passenger seat can only be positioned at the following places on your motorcycle:

  • At the back of a large driver’s seat
  • Towards the rear as a separate saddle
  • Fixed to the side as a sidecar

Because there is no age restriction, you will have to consider other criteria when deciding who can safely ride with you. A popular rule of thumb is that a passenger must be able to reach and plant their feet against the footrests. Therefore, it is best to avoid transporting young children or elderly individuals. Other characteristics to look for in a motorcycle passenger include the following:

  • Your passenger must be able to reach the footrests
  • Your passenger must wear an approved motorcycle helmet
  • Your passenger cannot be carrying any packages
  • Your passenger must be able to understand and follow your directions

6. South Carolina Lane Splitting Laws

Lane splitting is explicitly stated as being an illegal practice in South Carolina. The dangers of squeezing between larger vehicles, riding in their blind spots, and increasing the risk of collision outweigh the benefit of bypassing heavy traffic to get somewhere faster. Motorcyclists are forbidden from doing the following in South Carolina:

  • Riding on top of the dividing lines between lanes
  • Riding in between adjacent rows of stopped vehicles
  • Overtaking a larger vehicle ahead in the same lane

As motorcycles are capable of greater maneuverability and have a compact design, riders are entitled to certain rights regarding how they can act when on the road. Motorcyclists are allowed to try the following in South Carolina:

  • You are allowed to make full use of the space within your current lane
  • You can only share a lane with another motorcycle if:

       ○Both parties stay apart at least two abreast
       ○Both parties consent beforehand

7. South Carolina Motorcycle Equipment Requirements

In the interest of keeping your motorcycle in the best shape possible, you should make it a point to conduct equipment and safety inspections whenever possible. If it has been a month since the last inspection or you are about to head out on a trip, these are the best opportunities to look over the primary components. If the machinery has become worn down or is in need of repair, it is best to do it when you are still in your garage or close to a local mechanic.

Listed below are the equipment your motorcycle must be fitted with to be considered street legal in South Carolina. These components are essential to your motorcycle’s maneuverability, visibility, and overall functionality:

  • Horn
  • Wheels
  • Tires
  • Handlebars
  • Brake System
  • Controls
  • Headlight(s)
  • Taillight
  • Brake Light
  • Reflector
  • License Plate Light
  • Exhaust system
  • Muffler
  • Rearview mirrors
  • Windshield

8. Sources
391 Thor Pl,
Brea, CA 92821

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