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Frequently Violated Georgia Traffic Codes Resulting in Car Accidents

Two drivers talking to a police officer following a car accident.

Traffic laws are ever-changing. Even if they weren’t, it is unlikely you are aware of every traffic code in the state of Georgia.

It is important that you familiarize yourself with the traffic laws in your state. Doing so limits the number of accidents and promotes public safety.

Below is a list of nine of the most important, and frequently violated, traffic laws in Georgia. Violating these laws can have a devastating impact, so understanding them is crucial to protecting yourself and others.

1. Drinking & Driving

Georgia Code 40-6-391 states that no person should be in physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or toxic vapor to an extent that is less safe than otherwise, or their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is greater than .08 grams.

Punishment for this violation varies, but a person charged with DUI will at minimum be required to:

  1. pay a fine of $300 (maximum $1,000), and
  2. serve 10 days of jail time, unless otherwise stated by a judge (maximum 12 months), and
  3. if a person’s BAC is greater than .08, they must complete at least 40 hours of community service. If their BAC is less, they must complete at least 20 hours, and
  4. completion of a DUI Risk Reduction Program.

In 2019, there were 353 fatalities in car accidents involving a driver with a BAC greater than .08 g/dL in the state of Georgia.

Just recently, in March 2024, a 16-year-old was driving on GA 400 when he fled from police and caused an accident that injured multiple people. An officer had been trying to pull the boy over for a traffic violation. In addition to DUI, he possessed a stolen firearm and various drugs.

If you have been involved in an accident with a drunk driver, it is important that you contact a drunk driving accident lawyer. In addition to compensation by the driver’s insurance company, you may be entitled to punitive damages.

Punitive damages are granted with compensatory damage in a separate civil suit. Their purpose is to award the plaintiff and punish the defendant to deter them from committing the same offense again. An experienced attorney can help you figure out if you have a case.

Contact Gary Martin Hays and Associates for a free consultation today.

2. Driving Without a Valid License or Registration

Georgia Code 40-6-15 states that any person who drives a vehicle on a public road with canceled, suspended, or revoked registration will be charged with a misdemeanor. At minimum, the offender faces:

  1. Imprisonment not exceeding 12 months
  2. A fine of $500 (maximum $1,000)

Driving without registration is a criminal offense.

Georgia Code 40-5-20 mandates that any person operating a motor vehicle on a public roadway must have a valid license in the vehicle’s appropriate class. This code section also requires that any person that has been a resident for 30 days must obtain a Georgia license before operating a vehicle. To receive this license, any existing license from a different state must be surrendered to be deemed invalid, as no person may possess more than one valid license at once (some exceptions for foreign licenses).

Any person charged with driving without a license or with a suspended license, as outlined in Georgia Code 40-5-121, faces a minimum punishment of:

  1. Imprisonment for 2 days (maximum 12 months), and
  2. Pay a fine of $500 (maximum $1,000), and
  3. Fingerprints will be taken to track future violations.

If you are in an accident without a license, you will likely be charged with a misdemeanor, but that doesn’t necessarily make you at fault for the incident and may still be entitled to compensation. If you are hit by someone without a valid license, you are also likely entitled to compensation.

In these cases, it is important to consult with an experienced car accident attorney who will work to earn you the appropriate compensation.

3. Driving Without Proper Insurance

Georgia Code 40-6-10 establishes that any person who drives, or owns a vehicle, without proof of insurance may be charged with a misdemeanor. This is punishable by:

  1. At least a $200 fine, or
  2. Up to 12 months of imprisonment, or
  3. Both.

Georgia Code 40-9-62 outlines the standards for liability insurance in the state of Georgia. Those requirements are as follows:

  1. $25,000 for one person in an accident causing bodily injury or death, or
  2. $50,000 for two or more people in an accident causing bodily injury or death, and
  3. $25,000 for property damage for one accident.

Georgia has one of the highest numbers of people who drive without proper insurance, at a staggering 18.1%. If a person without car insurance were to strike your vehicle, you may be stuck paying for your own damages and medical bills. Fortunately, there is uninsured/underinsured motorists’ coverage.

UM/UIM protects you in the case that you are in an accident with someone without the proper insurance. In Georgia, UM/UIM is optional, but it is recommended you add it onto your insurance plan.

So, hypothetically, if you were to be in an accident with an uninsured/underinsured driver, and you have a UM/UIM coverage of $50,000, your insurance company would compensate you up to that much for medical and damages.

If you do not have UM/UIM or are unsure, contact your insurance company to verify you have coverage. This way, you are protected should the unexpected occur.

4. Hit & Run

Georgia Code 40-6-270 asserts that any driver involved in a car accident that resulted in property damage, injuries, or fatalities must stop at the scene (or as close as possible) and do the following:

  1. Provide their own address, name, and vehicle registration number to the other driver or person struck
  2. Display their own license to the other party, if requested
  3. If the accident resulted in an injury, attempt to provide the assistance (e.g., transportation) necessary to attain medical help for the injured person, and
  4. If the other party is unconscious or unable to communicate, see that emergency services are contacted to provide a report of the accident and request immediate assistance.

The driver may not leave the scene until these requirements are fulfilled.

If the driver fails to do so and the accident causes a serious injury or fatality, the driver will be charged with a felony. The punishment, at minimum, is imprisonment for one year (maximum 5 years).

If the driver fails to do so in an incident resulting in property damage or injuries other than serious injuries, they will be charged with a misdemeanor. They would face at least a $300 fine (maximum $1,000), or up to 12 months in jail, or both.

Georgia Code 40-6-271 states any driver who collides with another vehicle left unattended should immediately find the driver of the other vehicle and provide their own name and address, or secure a note containing the information for the driver of the unattended vehicle to find. Failing to do so is a misdemeanor.

Unfortunately, hit and run fatalities are on the rise in the state of Georgia, ranking 4th in the nation.

In January 2024, a man was reportedly walking from a friend’s house when he was hit by a drunk driver, who had already caused and fled from another accident. The driver drove on until he hit a utility pole, and was attempting to flee on foot when he was apprehended by law enforcement. The pedestrian was pronounced dead at the scene.

If you or a loved one were injured or killed as a result of a hit-and-run accident, contact an Atlanta personal injury lawyer to protect your rights.

5. Mechanical Violations/Unlawful Vehicle Modifications

Georgia Codes 40-8-7 through 40-8-90 outline the standards for vehicles on public roads.

Chapter 8 of Title 40 goes over the proper equipment standards, which includes, but is not limited to:

  1. Lights
    1. A car must have at least 2 functional headlights, no more than 4
    2. A car must have 2 red taillights
    3. Vehicles operated on public roads must have 2 red rear reflectors (motorcycles may have 1)
    4. Only government and emergency vehicles are permitted to display blue lights
  2. Brakes
    1. Every vehicle operating on a public road must have 2 fully functional brakes that may be applied to 2 wheels
    2. All vehicles must be equipped with a parking brake designed to hold the vehicle in place unoccupied
    3. Brakes must be accessible and unobstructed during vehicle operation
  3. Mirrors
    1. Every motor vehicle must contain a mirror on each side of the car, giving the driver a view of the sides and rear of the vehicle.
    2. Every vehicle must contain a mirror reflecting the view of the highway from the rear for 200 feet.
  4. Vehicles must be equipped with a horn, functional exhaust system, safety belts in the front seats, and windshield wipers.
  5. The windshield of an operating vehicle must remain unobstructed (i.e. no posters, opaque materials, or excessive shatters)

It also reviews emissions standards and vehicle inspections.

Often, violations of this code involve brake failure, broken headlights, or improper use of turn signals. Brake failure cases can be complicated, as it may be hard to pinpoint who is at fault. Usually, fault lies on the driver, the auto mechanic, or the car manufacturer. If the failure was caused by carelessness (failing to keep up with maintenance checks or ignoring warnings from mechanics), fault may belong to the driver. If it was caused by faulty manufacturing or poor repairs, fault may fall on the manufacturer or mechanic.

These cases can be complex. If you are involved in an accident caused by a mechanical failure or violation, it is important to hire an experienced attorney to figure out who is responsible for damages.

Scene of a nighttime car accident with police lights in the background.

6. Reckless Driving

Georgia Code 40-6-390 declares that any person driving a vehicle with disregard for the safety of themselves and others commits the offense of reckless driving and will be charged with a misdemeanor, punishable at minimum by a fine not exceeding $1000 or imprisonment for a maximum of 12 months.

Reckless driving is incredibly prevalent in the state of Georgia, especially in the Atlanta area. Fatal car crashes are increasing significantly, as well. In 2019, 1,491 people were killed in car crashes. From 2015 to 2019, the number of serious car accidents increased by 49%.

Examples of reckless driving include speeding and road rage.

Road rage can be particularly dangerous because it may lead to aggressive driving. Beyond speeding, blinding road rage may cause someone to tailgate too closely, resulting in a potentially devastating rear-end accident. The implications of these wrecks can span beyond the two drivers; they may cause a multi-car pileup.

An angry driver may dart in and out of lanes in front of other drivers and run red lights, which can cause a terrible accident, as well. They may honk their horn, flash their lights, and cause a disturbance. Not only is this inherently dangerous to the driver and the drivers immediately close to them, but they may distract other drivers and cause an accident without being directly involved themselves. In severe cases, the angry driver may exit their vehicle to confront another driver, sometimes with a weapon.

In February 2024, a man was arrested in Gwinnett County after he fired multiple shots into another vehicle in a fit of road rage. Luckily, the bullets didn’t hit anyone, but the occupants of the other vehicle were injured by the shattered glass of their windows. The suspect has since been arrested, after attempting to flee.

Atlanta and its surrounding urban areas are also seeing a spike in speeding-related wrecks. Law enforcement across the state are pushing drivers to stay focused and alert on the roads.

7. Disregarding Traffic Signals and Illegal U-turns

Georgia Code 40-6-121 outlaws U-turns where at least one of the following conditions applies:

  1. Upon any curve
  2. The driver’s vehicle is obstructed from the view of other approaching vehicles
  3. Doing so would be dangerous or interfere with traffic
  4. A sign prohibits such turn

Attempting to make a U-turn where it is prohibited can be very dangerous. A common result of violating this code is car wrecks that cause serious injuries and/or fatalities. There have been instances of drivers making such turns and colliding with other cars and motorcyclists, or causing multi-vehicle accidents and pileups.

Georgia Code 40-6-21 establishes the rules and expectations at traffic lights. The standards are:

  • Green light indicates:
    1. Circular - vehicles may proceed straight through the light, turn right, or turn left. Turning traffic must yield to approaching vehicles and crossing pedestrians.
    2. Arrow - turning traffic may proceed in the direction the arrow is pointing, they must yield to crossing pedestrians.
    3. Pedestrians may proceed to cross when facing any green indicator (other than the arrow).
  • Yellow light indicates:
    1. Traffic facing a circular yellow or yellow arrow light should not enter the intersection, as this indicates the light turning red promptly.
    2. Pedestrians should also avoid crossing an intersection when facing a yellow indicator, there will likely not be enough time to finish crossing.
    3. Vehicles facing a flashing yellow arrow may proceed with caution, they must yield to approaching traffic and crossing pedestrians.
  • Red light indicates:
    1. Traffic facing a circular red light must stop before the stop line, or before the crosswalk in the absence of a stop line.
    2. Vehicular traffic turning right must stop before the stop line. They may slowly enter the intersection after yielding to oncoming vehicles and pedestrians on the crosswalk. Traffic turning right may not proceed if there is a sign prohibiting turning on a red indicator.
    3. Traffic may not turn left on a circular red light, unless they are turning from a one-way street onto another one-way street on which traffic is moving toward the driver’s left. They must first stop and yield to oncoming traffic and crossing pedestrians.
    4. Pedestrians may not enter the crosswalk on a red indicator.
    5. Turning traffic may not enter the intersection on a red arrow.
    6. Traffic turning right may do so on a flashing red arrow, after yielding to pedestrians and oncoming traffic.

Any driver found violating this code will be charged with a misdemeanor.

In 2021, 1,109 people were killed in accidents involving a driver who drove through a red light in the United States. It is believed that 127,000 people were injured in the accidents. The Federal Highway Administration found that around 50% of accidents that result in injury or death occur at intersections. About half of them involve left-hand turns, causing one driver to t-bone another.

For pedestrians and non-motor vehicles, crossing the street while a motor vehicle can be dangerous. In 2021, 853 pedestrians and 154 bicyclists were killed at signalized intersections.

In March 2024, five people were seriously injured in a collision at a Marietta intersection. A black Nissan was proceeding straight through a light when a Hyundai Elantra attempted to turn left in front of the Nissan. The two collided, and the Nissan continued into a traffic pole. Three of the injured were taken to the hospital with critical injuries, including a 10-year-old child. The extent of the injuries of the other two were unspecified.

8. Speeding

Georgia Code 40-6-181 outlines the maximum speeds on public roads, unless there is a sign indicating a lower speed. No driver should exceed the following:

  1. 30 miles per hour in a residential area unless there is a sign designating a different speed
  2. 35 miles per hour on an unpaved road unless there is a sign designating a different speed
  3. 70 miles per hour on an interstate or physically divided highway with full control of access outside areas with a population exceeding 50,000 people, as long as the appropriate signs indicate the same speed
  4. 70 miles per hour on an interstate or physically divided highway inside areas with a population exceeding 50,000 people, as long as the appropriate signs indicate the same speed
  5. 65 miles per hour on physically divided highways without full access control on state highways
  6. 55 miles per hour in other locations

In 2021, 369 people were killed in accidents in Georgia in which at least one party was driving at excessive speeds. The number of fatalities caused by speeding increased by 5% between 2010 and 2020.

In July 2023, a woman and her two children were killed in a wreck involving a super speeder in Habersham County. Her SUV was hit by a Corvette traveling over 150 miles per hour over the speed limit. Habersham County Sheriff Joey Terrell is pleading with county commissioners to do something to make the roads safer.

On Labor Day 2023, five people were killed in an accident involving racing vehicles. The at-fault vehicle was moving at over 100 miles per hour when it hit another car, holding five passengers,  into a retaining wall with such force that it rolled over the wall and fell 37 feet. Three other people were injured in the wreck.

9. Child Safety Restraint/Seat Belt Violations

Georgia Code 40-8-76 establishes the law for the use of seat belts and child safety restraints. These regulations are as follows:

  1. Any child under the age of 8 riding in a passenger vehicle must be in a proper restraint (i.e., car seat) appropriate for the child’s weight and height.
  2. Children should be seated in the restraint in the rear seat of the vehicle.
  3. A driver would be found in violation of these laws if the child restraint was not installed properly.
  4. No new passenger vehicles may be sold without two sets of seat belts for the front seats.
  5. Occupants of the front seat must use the seat belt when the vehicle is operating on public roads.

In March 2024, a man was driving his Camaro 55 miles per hour over the speed limit when he collided with another car. In the back seat of his Camaro, sat his two young daughters (ages 5 and 6). Both children wore seat belts, but neither were in the appropriate child restraint. His 5-year-old daughter died at the hospital, and the two passengers of the other vehicle were pronounced dead on scene.

If your child was injured in a car accident, you may file a personal injury claim on their behalf for medical expenses and pain and suffering. Consider reaching out to an experienced lawyer to get the compensation your family deserves.

If you suffered an injury due to a car accident, work accident, or other incident caused by someone else’s negligence, contact our Georgia personal injury law firm today at (770) 934-8000. Consultations are free and confidential.

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