Does South Carolina law require motorcycle riders and passengers to wear a helmet?

Question

Does South Carolina law require motorcycle riders and passengers to wear a helmet?

Answer

South Carolina does have a motorcycle helmet law on the books, but it is not the sort of catch-all "universal" helmet law that many other states' legislatures have passed. In South Carolina only motorcycle operators and passengers who are under 21 are required to wear a helmet. (In contrast, "universal" helmet laws require anyone riding on a motorcycle to wear a helmet, whether as an operator or as a passenger, regardless of age.)

Here's what the specific language of South Carolina's motorcycle helmet law says: "It shall be unlawful for any person under the age of twenty-one to operate or ride upon a two-wheeled motorized vehicle unless he wears a protective helmet of a type approved by the [South Carolina] Department of Public Safety. Such a helmet must be equipped with either a neck or chin strap and be reflectorized on both sides thereof."

You can find the full text of South Carolina's motorcycle helmet law at South Carolina Code section 56-5-3660 (open the link and scroll down to get to section 56-5-3660). And for more safety tips for riders in the state, check out the South Carolina Department of Public Safety's "Motorcycles in South Carolina" publication.

Whether you're under 21 or not, if you're involved in a motorcycle accident in South Carolina and you're not wearing a helmet, that fact could have a negative impact on any personal injury lawsuit you decide to file against the driver who caused the accident. If your case goes to trial and the jury decides that your failure to wear a helmet amounted to negligence, any damages you're awarded could be reduced under South Carolina's "comparative negligence" law. Learn more about how this rule works in our article South Carolina Car Accident Laws.

by: David Goguen, J.D.

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