South Carolina Motorcycle Helmet Laws

South Carolina law states that anyone on a motorcycle under the age of 21 must wear a helmet complying with state standards.
Written by Melanie Johnson
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
South Carolina
law, any rider 21 years or older can ride without a helmet. Helmets, goggles, and/or face shields must be worn by any rider under the age of 21. 
Since the 1960s, states have passed motorcycle helmet laws in an attempt to lower traffic fatalities, but the statistics are still staggering. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that motorcycle accidents were responsible for 14% of all traffic deaths in 2019
Motorcycle helmet laws vary from state to state. That’s why
car insurance
broker and super app
wants to help you understand the specifics of the law in South Carolina. In this article, we’ll cover the basics of the helmet law, the exceptions you should know, and the fatality statistics on unhelmeted drivers in the Palmetto State. 
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Do you have to wear a motorcycle helmet in South Carolina?

If you’re 21 years old or younger, you must wear a motorcycle helmet while driving or riding a motorcycle in South Carolina. You must also wear protective eyewear. 
South Carolina has a “partial” motorcycle helmet law—this means that drivers and riders over the age of 21 can choose whether or not to wear a helmet

Exceptions to South Carolina’s motorcycle helmet law

Title 56, Chapter 5, Section 3660
of the South Carolina Code of Laws, anyone 21 years old or under must wear a helmet approved by the
South Carolina Department of Public Safety
Helmets must be equipped with a neck or chin strap and should be reflective on both sides.
Mopeds are exempt from South Carolina’s motorcycle helmet law. A vehicle is considered a moped, and therefore exempt from the helmet law, if: 
  • It has two or three wheels
  • Its motor is under 50cc, 2 horsepower, or between 750 and 1500 watts
  • It has no gear shift
  • Its maximum speed is 30 MPH
While South Carolina does not have specific classifications for electric bikes and scooters, if the vehicle has a motor over 50cc or 1500 watts, it will likely be considered a motorcycle, and helmet laws will apply.

Penalties for breaking South Carolina’s motorcycle helmet law

In South Carolina, failing to comply with the motorcycle helmet law may result in a misdemeanor offense. You may be subject to fines up to $100 and up to 30 days in jail. 

Why it’s important to wear a motorcycle helmet

Potential imprisonment isn’t the worst consequence of not wearing a motorcycle helmet in South Carolina. To better understand the true cost of riding without a helmet, let’s take a look at the history of the helmet and some motorcycle fatality statistics.
After the death of British army officer and diplomat T.E. Lawrence—better known as “Lawrence of Arabia”—in a
motorcycle accident
in 1935, his doctor, Hugh Cairns, launched pioneering research on the motorcycle helmet. Cairns, a neurosurgeon, campaigned widely for the use of the helmet, hoping to prevent future deaths. 
The NHTSA estimates that helmet laws save hundreds of lives a year in the United States alone. In states without universal helmet laws, up to 57% of motorcyclists killed on the road are unhelmeted—compared to just 9% in states with universal helmet laws.
In South Carolina—where there is no universal helmet law—the statistics are sobering.
Almost every year, South Carolina has one of the highest
motorcycle fatality
rates in the country. In 2019 alone, unhelmeted riders made up 75% of South Carolina’s
153 motorcyclist fatalities
Key Takeaway: Wearing a motorcycle helmet, even if you are 21 or older, is the best way to avoid becoming a negative statistic. 

How to find affordable car and motorcycle insurance

A motorcycle helmet can help keep you safe on the road.
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