Do you need bike reflectors if you already have lights?

Because bicycles often share the road with vehicles, it can be very dangerous for bicyclists when drivers are distracted or not paying attention, especially in low light conditions when it may be harder to see bicyclists.

Part of being a safety-conscious biker is having reflectors or lights on your bike to make yourself more visible. In fact, in all states in the U.S., you are legally required to have both lights and reflectors on your bike in most circumstances.

The Need for Bike Reflectors in South Carolina

Federal law requires every new bicycle to come equipped with reflectors, but older bikes may not have them, and some owners remove the reflectors from their bikes.

While it is legal to remove the reflectors from your bike and ride without them in daylight, it is illegal to ride a bike without reflectors in low light. Low light can mean anything from dusk and dawn to full dark, or even just reduced visibility during fog, rain, and other weather conditions. This means that in many cases, you will need reflectors, so it’s better to leave them on.

The legally required reflectors are:

  • Clear front reflector
  • Red rear reflector
  • Clear or amber pedal reflectors
  • Clear or amber front wheel reflector
  • Clear or red rear wheel reflector

If you are injured in a collision with a car and didn’t have reflectors on your bike, it’s highly likely you may be considered at least partially at fault.

Furthermore, lights cannot replace reflectors. Even if you have lights on your bike, you still need reflectors.

The Need for Bike Lights in South Carolina

Reflectors are often not enough to make yourself visible, because they don’t produce their own light. That’s why it’s a smart idea to supplement your reflectors with lights.

However, at least one light is also legally required. You need a white front light with a beam that extends at least 500 feet. Many cyclists also choose to add a rear light to their bikes. This rear light is not legally required, but if you do want to add a rear light, the law states that it must be red.

Lights not only make it easier for other vehicles to see you, they can also help illuminate potholes, loose gravel, and other road hazards that may cause you to crash.

If you are in a collision and do not have a front light, you may be ticketed or be at risk of being considered at fault.

While lights cannot replace reflectors, there are some bike lights that double as reflectors. If you have a combination light/reflector, you do not need both a light and a separate reflector on the front of your bike.

Additional Ways to Make Yourself More Visible on a Bike

Most drivers’ brains are trained to only watch out for other vehicles when driving, so they may miss smaller obstacles in their path, including motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians.

This means that in addition to reflectors and lights, you should  make every effort to be visible to drivers when you are riding your bike, such as:

  • Wear brightly colored clothing or a reflective vest when you ride.
  • Wear reflective ankle straps or place reflective tape on your shoes, especially when biking at night (the movement of the reflectors as you pedal will attract the eyes of drivers more easily).
  • Instead of a steady rear light, use a blinking rear light on your bike.
  • Signal your direction and intentions with your arms.
    • Left arm extended straight out means you are turning left.
    • Left arm extended up with the elbow at a 90-degree angle, OR right arm extended straight out both mean you are turning right.
    • Left arm extended downward means you are slowing or stopping.

We Help Injured Bicyclists When They’re Injured in Collisions

Bicycle accidents often result in serious injuries for bikers, especially when they are the result of a collision with a distracted driver.

South Carolina law protects the rights of bicyclists to safely share the road with other vehicles and their drivers. When drivers violate this law by not maintaining a safe distance from cyclists, harassing cyclists, or otherwise making conditions unsafe for cyclists, they can be held accountable for injuries and damages.

If you or someone you love has been injured in a bicycle crash that was caused by someone else, contact our South Carolina bicycle attorneys today. We want to fight for you.

About the Author

Mark Joye is the Head of the Litigation Department at the Joye Law Firm. A Board-Certified Trial Advocate with nearly 30 years of litigation experience, he currently serves on the Board of Governors for the American Association for Justice and is a past president of the South Carolina Association for Justice. In a recent trial, Joye headed a trial team that secured $17 million for a family killed in a tractor-trailer accident.

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