Motorcycle riders in South Carolina no doubt love the freedom of being out on the open road, wind in your hair. Given the wonderful weather experienced in Charleston and other parts of the state, it isn’t surprising that so many people would rather drive their motorcycles than be cooped up in passenger vehicles.

However, before heading out on your motorcycle it’s important to understand exactly what rules and regulations apply to motorcyclists. Though motorcycles and other vehicles should be treated the same under the law, the reality is that a variety of special laws apply exclusively to those on two wheels. To find out more, keep reading.

Are all vehicles treated equally?

South Carolina laws start off with the appearance that motorcyclists and drivers are indeed created equally. The law clearly says that every person riding a motorcycle will be granted “all of the rights and shall be subject to all of the duties applicable to the drivers of motor vehicles…” However, this seeming equality doesn’t last long, as the statute goes on to say “except as to special regulations…” Let’s discuss some of these special regulations and how they impact your freedom to ride a motorcycle in South Carolina.

Motorcycle-only laws

Though South Carolina legislators went to pains to make clear that motorcyclists are subject to the exact same rights and responsibilities as those on any other motor vehicles, the reality is that there are many regulations that concern motorcyclists exclusively.

South Carolina Code Section 56-5-3630 is one of several sections of law that explore motorcyclist-only laws. The regulation explains that motorcyclists can only operate a motorcycle while sitting on the permanent and attached seat of the bike and that no other passengers will be allowed to ride on bikes unless the bike was designed specifically to accommodate two individuals.

Motorcyclists are not permitted to attach themselves or their bikes to any other vehicle, meaning no towing or being towed while in operation. Bizarrely, the law goes into very detailed specifications about how a motorcycle should be driven, with the operator “sitting astride the seat, facing forward, with one leg on each side of the motorcycle.” As if there was another way to ride a bike…

The law also specifies that the person riding a bike is not allowed to carry a package or anything else that would prevent the operator from keeping both hands on the handlebars at all times.

How and where to drive

A good example of equality under the law is a regulation that specifies that motorcycles are entitled to the full use of a lane of traffic and that no other vehicles on the road are permitted to drive in a way that would deprive the motorcyclist the full use of that lane. By the same token, motorcycles must not be driven between lanes of traffic and cannot be used to pass another vehicle in the same lane. The only real difference between bikes and cars in terms of vehicle lane usage is that motorcycles are allowed to drive two abreast in a single lane whereas passenger cars are not.

South Carolina Code Section 56-5-3835 takes the seemingly unnecessary step of explaining that motorcyclists are not permitted to drive on the sidewalk or what the law refers to as a “sidewalk area.” Not sure how many people would want to drive down the sidewalk anyway, but good to know nonetheless.

Safety issues

In the same way that passenger vehicles are required to have certain safety features before being allowed on South Carolina roads, motorcycles must also meet certain basic standards to be considered operable. For example, all motorcycles must come equipped with a rear view mirror. Any motorcycle used to transport other riders must not only have a seat for that rider, but must also come with footrests for the passenger.

Beyond the specifications of the bike itself, some motorcyclists in South Carolina are required to wear helmets and safety goggles. The laws regarding goggles explains that motorcyclist under 21 are required to wear either face goggles, face shields or use an authorized wind screen while operating their bike. The state even keeps a specific list of approved goggles and face shields, which they believe serve to keep riders safe and better able to focus attention on the road in front of them.

South Carolina’s motorcycle helmet law similarly applies only to those operators under 21. The law says that it is illegal for anyone under 21 to operate or ride a two-wheeled motorized vehicle without wearing a helmet that has been approved by state safety officials. The helmet cannot simply be any old helmet, it must come equipped with either a neck or chin strap and be “reflectorized” on both sides (meaning, it needs to have some reflector strips on it).

Though the state’s goggle and helmet laws only apply to motorcycle riders under 21, it is important to note that the same safety benefits apply equally to those over 21. Study after study has shown that those riders wearing helmets have exponentially better odds of surviving a crash than those without helmets. The fact that the law does not mandate the use of helmets and other safety gear for adult riders should not be mistaken for an endorsement of helmetless riding.

Riders Law Group has assisted countless injured individuals across South Carolina and helped secure damages for the harms they’ve suffered. David Aylor understand that motorcycle accidents can be scary, leaving injured bikers and their families with expensive medical bills and confusion over how to move forward. If you’ve been injured in a South Carolina motorcycle accident and have concerns, feel free to contact the South Carolina Motorcycle Injury Lawyers at Riders Law Group today at (843) 276-7557.