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South Carolina New Resident Guide

Welcome to South Carolina! As a new driver to this state you will need to be aware of our unique traffic laws and regulations. Here's what you need to keep in mind while driving in South Carolina. Some of these rules may be the same as what you're already used to, but others will be drastically different!

Licensing and Residency Requirements



  • If you are a new resident, you may use a valid driver's license from your former state for up to 90 days. However, you must convert to a South Carolina driver's license before the end of the 90-day period.
  • You have 45 days to transfer your out of state vehicle registration to South Carolina.
  • South Carolina law requires you to change your name or address on department records within 10 days of your actual name or address change. When you change your name or address with the department, all of the vehicle and driver records that relate to you will be updated.


Graduated Licensing Program



Full Operator's License

Requirements

  • Must be 15;
  • Must pass vision and knowledge tests.

Privileges and Restrictions

  • May drive from 6 AM to midnight if a licensed driver who is at least 21 years old and has at least one year of driving experience accompanies you in the front seat.
  • May drive from midnight to 6 AM if a licensed parent or guardian accompanies you in the front seat.

Conditional / Restricted License

Requirements

  • Must be 15 and 6 months;
  • Must have passed driver's education course;
  • Must have completed 40 hours, at least 10 at night, of supervised driving;
  • Must have satisfied school attendance requirement;
  • Must have held permit for 180 days;
  • Must pass road test.

Privileges and Restrictions

  • May drive alone from 6 AM until 6 PM (8 PM during daylight savings time).
  • May only drive from 6 PM (8 PM during daylight savings time) until midnight if accompanied by licensed driver at least 21 years old.
  • May only drive from midnight to 6 AM if accompanied by licensed parent or legal guardian.
  • May not transport more than 2 passengers under 21 unless accompanied by licensed adult 21 years or older. Family members and fellow students being transported to and from school are exempt.

Full License

Requirements

  • You may obtain full driving privileges if you have had your conditional/restricted license for 1 year and have no traffic offenses or have ever been involved in any at-fault accidents.


Violation Point Counts

The amount of points that go against your driver's license for specific types of violations.



6 Point Violations

  • Hit and Run, property damage only
  • Reckless driving
  • Passing stopped school bus
  • Speeding 25 mph or more above posted limit

4 Point Violations

  • Disobedience of any official traffic device
  • Disobedience to official directing traffic
  • Disregard railroad sign or signal
  • Disobedience to signal of approaching train
  • Driving on wrong side of road
  • Driving through or within safety zone
  • Failure to give or giving improper signal
  • Failure to yield right of way
  • Following too closely
  • Operating with improper brakes
  • Passing unlawfully
  • Speeding more than 10 mph, but less than 25 mph
  • Driving too fast for conditions, over 10 mph
  • Turning unlawfully

2 Point Violations

  • Defective tail light
  • Driving a vehicle in unsafe condition
  • Driving in improper lane
  • Failure to dim lights
  • Improper backing
  • Improper dangerous parking
  • Operating with improper lights
  • Shifting lanes improperly
  • Speeding 10 mph or less
  • Driving too fast for conditions, 10 mph or less

Driving Record

Points posted to your driving record will be reduced by half after one year. For example, if four points were posted to your record in June, the points would be reduced to two points in June of the following year. If you have multiple convictions, the points will be reduced according to the date each conviction was posted to your record.

  • If six or more points are posted to your driver record, SCDMV will send you a letter urging you to drive more carefully. If you continue to violate traffic laws, or if you already have additional convictions the department has not yet received, you are in danger of losing your driver license.
  • If your point total reaches 12 or more, your driver's license will be suspended.
  • Certain traffic law violations, such as driving under the influence, require mandatory license suspension under the law and are not under the point system.


Insurance Requirements



South Carolina's Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law was designed to protect citizens against financially irresponsible drivers who are involved in motor vehicle accidents. South Carolina Law requires every owner of a vehicle that is required to be registered in this state to maintain liability insurance or, if qualified, pay $550.00 for registering as an uninsured vehicle.

Insurance Requirements

  • If you choose to insure your vehicle rather than register as an uninsured motor vehicles, you must maintain liability insurance on your vehicle. Liability insurance must remain in effect as long as your car is registered. Your insurance provider must be licensed and authorized to do business in this state.
  • The minimum liability insurance limits in this state are 25/50/25. These limits provide coverage for:
  1. Injury or death to one person.
  2. Injury or death to more than one person.
  3. Property damage in any one accident.
  4. Uninsured motorist protection.


Headlight Laws



You must dim your headlights from high to low beam when you are within 500 feet of an oncoming vehicle, or when within 200 feet of a vehicle traveling ahead of you.

You must use your headlights:

  • From a half hour after sunset to a half hour before sunrise;
  • In rain, sleet, or snow, or at any other time when you have to use your windshield wipers;
  • When other environmental factors like fog reduce your ability to clearly see people or vehicles on the street or highway at a distance of 500 feet ahead.

There is no specific law allowing or prohibiting headlight flashing.



Implied Consent Laws



  • First refusal - Suspension 6 months.
  • Second refusal (within 10 years) - Suspension 9 months.
  • Third refusal (within 10 years) - Suspension 12 months.
  • Fourth or subsequent refusal (within 10 years) - Suspension 15 months.
  • A person may still be issued restricted driving privileges for employment or college education purposes.
  • Persons Under 21:
    • First refusal - Suspension 6 months.
    • Subsequent refusal (within 5 years) - Suspension 1 year.


DUI Penalties



First Offense

  • 48 hours - 30 days imprisonment;
  • $400 fine;
  • 48 hours community service may be ordered in lieu of imprisonment;
  • 6 months license suspension.

(BAC greater than or equal to .10 but less than .16)

  • 72 hours - 30 days imprisonment;
  • $500 fine;
  • 72 hours community service may be ordered in lieu of imprisonment;
  • 6 months license suspension.

(BAC greater than or equal to .16)

  • 30 days - 90 days imprisonment;
  • $1,000 fine;
  • 30 days community service may be ordered in lieu of imprisonment;
  • 6 months license suspension.

Second Offense (class C misdemeanor)

  • 5 days - 1 year imprisonment;
  • $2,100 - $5,100 fine;
  • 1 year license suspension;
  • 2 year ignition interlock.

(BAC greater than or equal to .10 but less than .16)

  • 30 days - 2 years imprisonment;
  • $2,100 - $5,100 fine;
  • 1 year license suspension;
  • 2 year ignition interlock.

(BAC greater than or equal to .16)

  • 90 days - 3 years imprisonment.
  • $3,500 - $6,500.
  • 1 year license suspension.
  • 2 year ignition interlock.

Third Offense (Class A Misdemeanor)

  • 60 days - 3 years imprisonment;
  • $3,800 - $6,300 fine;
  • 2 year license suspension if within 10 years of previous offenses, 4 year license suspension if within 5 years of previous offenses;
  • 3 year ignition interlock.

(BAC greater than or equal to .10 but less than .16)

  • 90 days - 4 years imprisonment
  • $5,000 - $7,500 fine
  • 2 year license suspension if within 10 years of previous offenses, 4 year license suspension if within 5 years of previous offenses
  • 3 year ignition interlock

(BAC greater than or equal to .16)

  • 6 months - 5 years imprisonment
  • $7,500 - $10,000 fine
  • 2 year license suspension if within 10 years of previous offenses, 4 year license suspension if within 5 years of previous offenses
  • 3 year ignition interlock

Fourth or Subsequent Offense (Class F Felony)

  • 1 - 5 years imprisonment.
  • Permanent license suspension.
  • Permanent ignition interlock.

(BAC greater than or equal to .10 but less than .16)

  • 2 - 6 years imprisonment.
  • Permanent license suspension.
  • Permanent ignition interlock.

(BAC greater than or equal to .16)

  • 3 - 7 years imprisonment.
  • Permanent license suspension.
  • Permanent ignition interlock.

Child Endangerment

A person 18 who commits a DUI, a driving with an unlawful alcohol concentration or DUI-great bodily injury offense while transporting a child less than 16 is subject to additional jail and fine sanctions which are equal to not more than one-half the maximum jail and fine sanctions for these offenses. These sanctions are mandatory if the jail or fine sanctions have been imposed for the original offense. Also, mandatory license suspension for 60 days.

Alcohol Education/Treatment

Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Program required for all offenders.



Open Container Law



The Open Container Law prohibits possession of an open alcoholic beverage container in the passenger area of any motor vehicle, by any occupant of the vehicle, on any public highway or right of way, whether or not the vehicle is in motion.



Red Light Violation Fines



  • South Carolina does not have a state law governing red light fines.
  • Red light cameras prohibited.


Construction Zone Penalties



Speeding violations are subject to enhanced penalties of $75 - $200, up to 30 days in jail, or both, whether or not workers are present.



Turn Signal Information



Signal your intention to turn or change lanes at least 100 feet in advance.



Hazard Light Information



Hazard light use is permitted for the purpose of warning other drivers of the presence of a vehicular traffic hazard requiring the exercise of unusual care in approaching, overtaking or passing.



Funeral Procession Right-of-Way Laws



  • South Carolina has no state law regarding right of way for a funeral procession.
  • Funeral processions are not required to allow sufficient space between vehicles so as to enable any other vehicle to enter and occupy such space without danger.


School Bus Laws



Requirements

  • Vehicles are required to stop unless the bus is in a passenger loading zone completely off the main travel lanes and when pedestrians are not allowed to cross the roadway, or on highways where the roadways are separated by an earth or raised concrete median.

Penalties

  • Failure to stop and remain stopped when required will result in a minimum fine of $500, or 30 days imprisonment, and a mandatory court appearance.


Bicyclist Passing Distance



You are required to pass at a safe distance.



Motorcycle Laws



Licensing

  • A motorcycle vehicle examination will be provided where the knowledge and skills examination for a commercial driver's license is offered.

Protective Gear

  • It is illegal for any person under the age of 21 to operate or ride on a motorcycle or a moped unless he or she wears a protective helmet approved by the Department. Such a helmet must be equipped with either a neck or chin strap and be reflectorized on both sides.
  • It is illegal for any person under the age of 21 to operate a moped or a motorcycle unless he or she wears goggles or a face shield of a type approved by the Department.
  • The provisions with respect to goggles and face shields do not apply to the operator of moped or a motorcycle equipped with a wind screen.

Headlights

  • Any person who operates a motorcycle or moped must have the headlights on at all times.

Sharing the Road

  • Lane splitting is not authorized.
  • Two motorcycles may travel side-by-side in a single lane.


Using the Shoulder to Pass



You may not drive off the roadway to pass on the right.



Passing Laws



Do Not Pass:

  • When approaching or upon a hill or curve.
  • When approaching within 100 feet of or traversing any intersection or railroad grade crossing.
  • When approaching within 100 feet of any bridge, viaduct, or tunnel.

When Being Passed:

  • Give way to the right in favor of the overtaking vehicle.
  • The overtaking vehicle may signal by honking its horn.
  • Do not increase the speed of your vehicle until completely passed by the overtaking vehicle.


Speed Limits



  • 70 mph on the interstate highway system and other freeways;
  • 60 mph on multilane divided primary highways;
  • 55 mph in other locations or on other sections of highways;
  • 40 mph on unpaved roads;
  • 30 mph in an urban district.
    • "Urban district" is defined to mean "the territory contiguous to and including any street which is built up with structures devoted to business, industry, or dwelling houses situated at intervals of less than one hundred feet for a distance of a quarter of a mile or more."


Safety Belt and Child Safety Seat Laws



Safety Belts

  • Occupants 6 years and older must wear safety belts.
  • Police may stop vehicles solely for belt law violations.
  • The fine for a first offense is $25.

Child Seats

  • Children younger than 1 year or less than 20 pounds must be in a rear-facing infant seat.
  • Children 1 - 5 years and 20 - 39 pounds must be in a forward-facing child safety seat.
  • Children 1 - 5 years and 40 - 80 pounds must be in a booster seat secured by lap-shoulder belt.
  • Children 1 - 5 years and 80 or more pounds, or any child 5 years and younger if the child's knees bend over the seat edge when sitting up straight with his/her back firmly against the seat back, must be restrained and may use an adult safety belt.
  • Children 5 years and younger must be in a rear seat if available.
  • Police may stop vehicles solely for child seat law violations.
  • The fine for a first offense is $150.


Emergency Vehicle Laws



Move Over

  • When you see any of these vehicles displaying flashing lights while stopped on or adjacent to the roadway:
    • Emergency vehicle;
    • Recovery or towing vehicle.
  • You must do the following:
    • If on a highway having at least four lanes with not less than two lanes proceeding in the same direction as the approaching vehicle, make a lane change into a lane not adjacent to that of the authorized emergency vehicle, if possible with due regard to safety and traffic conditions.
    • If changing lanes would be impossible or unsafe, reduce the speed of the vehicle and maintain a safe speed for road conditions.

Following

  • Do not follow a fire apparatus traveling in response to a fire alarm closer than 500 feet, or stop within 500 feet of where the fire apparatus has stopped in answer to a fire alarm.

Collision Procedures

  • Stop at the scene or as close as possible without obstructing traffic more than necessary, and remain at the scene until all requirements are fulfilled. You may temporarily leave the scene to report the accident to the proper authorities.
  • If the crash resulted in injury or death, you must report the accident immediately to the local police department, county sheriff, or highway patrol. If the driver is unable to make the report, any other occupant of the vehicle who is able to must do so.
  • You must provide the following information to any other person involved in the accident, or any police officer at the scene of the crash:
    • Driver's name and address;
    • Vehicle registration number;
    • Show driver's license upon request.
  • Provide assistance to any injured person, including transporting them or making arrangements for transportation to a hospital or doctor, if necessary or requested.
  • Unattended vehicle or property:
    • If you have collided with a vehicle that is unattended, locate and notify the operator or owner of the driver's name and address and the owner's name and address. If you are unable to do so, leave a written notice providing this information and a statement of the circumstances.
    • If you have collided with other unattended property on or adjacent to a highway, locate and notify the owner of the driver's name and address, the vehicle registration number, and show your driver's license if requested. You must also report the accident in writing.
  • Report crash:
    • If the crash resulted in injury, death, or property damage of $1,000 or more, and was not investigated by a law enforcement officer, you must report the accident in writing within 15 days after the accident, unless the accident was investigated by a law enforcement officer.
    • If the driver is physically incapable of making an immediate or a written report of the crash, and the driver is not the owner of the vehicle, the owner of the vehicle involved in the crash shall make the report within 5 days of learning of the accident.


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