Articles Posted in Driving Laws

Our Atlanta tractor trailer lawyers know that tractor trailer accidents can be dangerous or fatal. Just this morning, at around 9:45am according to reports, a woman was injured in a crash between her Nissan Altima and a tractor trailer. The injured woman is 54 year old Jacqueline Ray and the accident happened on Kingston Highway near Rome. The Altima’s front left side collided with the tractor trailer as it went north on the bypass. Rome-Floyd County firefighters had to cut her out of her car after the accident. Her injuries are unknown and her passenger suffered only small cuts and scrapes. The accident is still being investigated.

The accident this morning seems to be relatively minor so far, and with no fatalities. But that is lucky. In a nearby area just last week, another accident between a car and a tractor trailer occurred and over the weekend one victim died of her injuries from the crash. That accident happened on July 14 at the intersection of US 27 and Ga. 140 when the victim, Barbara Fowler, turned right in her Mercury Grand Marquis. The light was green, and the tractor trailer driver thought she was going to head straight through the intersection, so he proceeded to turn left, causing the crash. Fowler was conscious when pulled from her vehicle and taken to Floyd Medical Center, but died in the hospital of injuries several days later. The driver of that tractor trailer, Jackie Johnson, a 55 year old from South Carolina, will now face second degree vehicular homicide for the accident, according to Sgt. Scott Thompson, who is contacting the company Johnson works for as a truck driver. The Georgia State Patrol are trying to determine where Johnson is so they can charge him for the crime.

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Also last week, on Tuesday, a tractor trailer sped across Highway 11 near the Highway 78 exit in Monroe and slammed into an abandoned gas station. The accident demolished the old gas station and city utility workers had to come and clear the scene. Fortunately no one was injured in that accident.

Technology seems to be progressing at a crazy pace these days. Think of all the gadgets and things we take for granted now. So when our Atlanta product liability lawyers saw an article about driverless cars, it seemed like something that could possibly be not too far in the future of our lives. Google has a fleet of driverless cars and Audi and BMW are investing in the new technology too. Driverless cars are already being tested in some parts of the US.

Most car accidents are due to some kind of human error, whether negligent or reckless or otherwise. It is the number one cause of road accidents and as much as 90 percent of fatal car accidents are due to a human mistake. So theoretically, new driverless cars could save thousands of lives by reducing the risk of many accidents. It could especially counter the more extreme forms of dangerous driver behavior, such as road rage. And of course it could also impact drunk driving, as well, if those intoxicated could mainly, or someday entirely, depend on their car to drive them home.

The new question that will be faced once these driverless cars are on the roads is who will be liable in a car crash. The auto industry knows that there is a high likelihood of product liability law being more prevalent in car crash cases in the driverless future, although industry experts note that there will still, at least in the foreseeable future, be drivers in the car, just with less active driving than now. This is an issue that will have to be addressed and sorted out. Last year, Arizona introduced a law to cover driverless cars. Nevada and California have laws on the books about driverless cars, too, including a provision that requires a licensed driver to be in the car ready to take over driving at any time. So that driver would still have the potential for liability in crashes involving these new cars, as they do with regular driver-operated cars. It won’t be long before most states will have provisions to face this new technology. Jeff Dial, who introduced the Arizona law, said, “The more you deal with this issue, the more the issue grows and grows.” One other idea to confront the product liability issue is to model driverless car liability after the way vaccine liability is handled. Congress created a special way to handle these cases in the 1980s, and now the cases go to special hearings and victims are paid through funding provided by a tax on vaccines.

An interesting government report on the costs of motorcycle accidents was recently released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The report stated that in 2010, the cost of injuries and deaths due to motorcycle crashes was $16 billion. That sounds like a huge amount of money, but it is likely underestimated as the costs of long term care for medical issues are not factored in. motorcyclecrash.jpg

The GAO, in its report, reviewed: knowledge about the cost of motorcycle crashes; the factors contributing to motorcycle accidents, fatalities, what individual states are doing in response; and how the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is assisting the states.

The GAO noted that motorcyclists, per mile traveled, are 30 percent more likely to die in a vehicle accident than persons in cars. In 2010, the year dealt with in this latest report, about 82,000 motorcyclists were injured in motorcycle accidents in the United States. 4,502 were killed. The report states that the average cost for a fatal crash was $1.2 million, the GAO estimated. Moreover, the cost for injuries, depending on severity, was between $2,500 and $1.4 million.These costs are just estimates because true costs often are only apparent years later. Aside from long term medical issues, there are employment and living issues that are difficult to measure.

There are many different types of vehicles on our roads, and therefore, many different types of vehicle accidents. This blog has discussed accidents involving cars, tractor trailers, motorcycles, scooters, and bicycles, but in the rural parts of Georgia, it is not uncommon to see a farm tractor on the road. Drivers of tractors can also be vulnerable to road accidents, particularly due to differences in speed, inability to make sharp turns, and decreased visibility.

Accidents usually occur when a car is trying to pass these slow moving vehicles. Often motorists think the tractor is moving to the side of the road to let them pass, but really they are trying to make a wide left turn. The Georgia Farm Bureau states, on its website, regarding slow moving vehicles, like farm tractors, on the road, “Patience is one of the best ways to avoid a collision. Even if you have to follow a tractor for two miles at 20 miles per hour, it only takes six minutes of your time. That’s about the same as waiting for two red lights in town. When you find yourself behind a slow-moving vehicle, wait until you can safely pass.” tractoryield.jpeg

Recently, according to news reports, an elderly Rockmart man, Charles E. Mears, was injured after his John Deere farm tractor, complete with attached trailer, was hit by a car on Georgia Highway 278, according to officials from the Georgia State Patrol. The accident happened around 10:15am near the Cowboy’s convenience store. The car, a 2004 Hyundai Sonata, was driven by Olivia McVadon of Cedartown. She told police that she turned to answer a question from her daughter, seated in the backseat, and that is when she hit the tractor. The impact caused Mr. Mears to fall off his tractor, which continued to travel back and forth across the road until it hit a ditch. Mr. Mears was taken to the hospital for his injuries.

Car and tractor trailer accidents are too common in Georgia, and this blog has discussed numerous reasons why tractor trailers are particularly dangerous vehicles on the road. The Georgia Department of Motor Vehicle Safety states that one in six deaths from vehicle crashes involve a large commercial truck. In 86 percent of those fatal tractor trailer crashes, it is the person in the passenger vehicle, not the truck, who dies.

Unfortunately, there was another instance of this type of fatal crash last week on Ga. 316. According to news reports, 68-year-old Anvir Karim of Dacula was driving westbound on Ga. 316 in his 1997 black Nissan Maxima when the accident occurred at 6:45am last Thursday. A tractor trailer heading eastbound, driven by 34-year-old Latora Barrett of Columbia, South Carolina, turned left suddenly onto Hurricane Trail in Lawrenceville. He turned in front of Mr. Karim’s car, causing the Maxima to slam into the side of the trailer. The car then wedged underneath the trailer, according to Gwinnett police Cpl. Edwin Ritter. The preliminary investigation of the crash has found that Mr. Karim did not have sufficient time to stop and avoid the crash.tractortrailer.jpg

Captain Eric Eberly, of the Gwinnett fire department, said the department’s Technical Rescue Team used air bags and large timbers to lift the tractor trailer off the ground and stabilize the truck. Then they dragged the Maxima out from under the truck and cut Mr. Karim out of the severely mangled car. Cpl. Ritter noted, “It took well over an hour, maybe almost two hours for fire and EMS to extricate him from the vehicle.” He was taken to Gwinnett Medical Center in critical condition, but later died of the injuries he sustained in the accident. As is the case most of the time, shown by the statistic above, Mr. Barrett, the driver of the truck, was not injured. Cpl. Ritter told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, in an email, that Mr. Barrett is facing charges for this fatal accident. Gwinnett County Detention Centers show that the uninjured Mr. Barrett was booked the afternoon of the day of the accident on charges of failure to yield and vehicular homicide.

Another fatal car accident has occurred on our roads, and once again, the bad driving of one person has ended the life of another. This accident also included a motorcycle, which is even more vulnerable to the negligent driving of others. Motorcycles are so much smaller and less protected than cars and other kinds of vehicles, and they have become increasingly popular, which is reflected in the increasing number of motorcycle fatalities in recent years – between 2004 and 2008 motorcycle fatalities increased 59 percent.

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In this case, there was a five vehicle accident on Monday, on Beaver Ruin Road at Interstate 85, in unincorporated Norcross during evening rush hour. At about 5pm, Brandon Roy, a 38-year- old from McDonough, Georgia, was driving his 2007 Harley Davidson motorcycle. He was stopped at a red light in the left turn lane with three other drivers, according to reports Then, a red 2006 BMW 325Ci travelling westbound in the left turn lane, driven by 42-year-old Kenneth Griffin of Dacula, “failed to stop and crashed into the stationary vehicles causing a chain reaction accident,” according to the Gwinnett County Police Department. Mr. Roy died of his injuries at the scene. The three other stationary drivers hit by Mr. Griffin, 25-year-old Paul Lowe of Lawrenceville, 52-year-old Usha Talwar of Tucker, and 61-year-old Steve LeBlanc of Roswell, were either unhurt or suffered minor injuries, showing perhaps the extra vulnerability of a motorcyclist in an accident. Mr. Griffin, the driver who caused the accident, was transported to Gwinnett Medical Center with non-life threatening injuries. Police say charges are pending against him for the accident and Mr. Roy’s death, and the Accident Investigation Unit is continuing to investigate. So far, it is unclear to the Accident Investigation Unit why Mr. Griffin did not stop his car. Traffic was held up for hours on I-85 as the wreckage of this tragic accident was cleared.

As attorneys working in vehicle accident law, we know there are several scenarios we come across time and again. Drunk driving is, of course, one of the most common scenarios, and the one that probably receives the most news coverage. However, running red lights is another extremely common scenario in accidents (see our posts here and here for examples), and like drunk driving, it is another instance of a totally avoidable accident if the driver had only taken the necessary care and followed the rules of the road. Those negligent drivers should be held responsible for their carelessness in hurting others.

Our Atlanta Auto accident attorneys know that child injuries and fatalities are all too common in Georgia car accidents and in accidents across the country. These children are always innocent victims in these tragic accidents, and many of these injuries or fatalities are preventable with proper safety restraints and car seats for children. We cannot guarantee that there won’t be negligent and reckless drivers on the road, but Georgians take action to make their own vehicles and families safer.

This is the subject of this week’s Child Passenger Safety Week in Georgia, when the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety will work with local organizations to teach adults how to properly restrain child passengers. Under Georgia law, all children under the age of eight must be restrained in the backseat of a vehicle in either a car seat or a booster seat. Local areas, such as Forsyth County and Bibb County, will be hosting events and free child safety seat inspections this week.

The free inspections are particularly important. During past checks, up to 90 percent of inspected car seats were improperly installed. In Bibb County, a previous check found 73 different seat violations earlier this year. Aside from looking to see whether the car seat is installed properly, the car seat inspectors will also educate parents, grandparents, and caregivers on the best way to install and use child safety seats. The program will ask these responsible adults to install the seat properly themselves under supervision to make sure they understand the procedure for the future. In Forsyth County, the local fire department is doing the checks and trainings. Division Chief Jason Shivers said, “As a fire department, we want to do all we can to help the children in Forsyth County be safe and secure when riding in vehicles.”

Every Marietta car accident attorney knows that driving drowsy can be as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Just this week, an 18 year old state championship football player died after falling asleep at the wheel around 2:30am on Saturday in Burke County. He was a senior and looking forward to playing football in college. Tragically, this young man was not drinking or texting, or it seems even speeding. Denzell Warthen was simply exhausted and should not have been driving.

This recent incident follows the accident last week, involving another young man, 19 year old Giovanni Aragon-Mercado, who is facing charges in the death of 24 year old motorcyclist Derrick Ferree. Reports of that tragedy indicate that Mr. Aragon-Mercado fell asleep at the wheel and drifted across the center lane of traffic in Cherokee County. In that instance, the sleepy driver was not hurt, but he killed another.

This is a problem that does not make as many headlines as drunk driving or distracted teen driving, but it is a problem nonetheless. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety report on drowsy drivers states that a 2010 telephone survey showed that 41 percent of drivers admitted to having “fallen asleep or nodded off” while driving at some point. The fact that most of the time this does not lead to an accident is luck, because nodding off while driving means your senses and reflexes are impaired if something comes up.

The report took various factors into account and determined an estimated 7 percent of crashes where a vehicle is towed, 13.1 percent of crashes resulting in a person going to the hospital, and 16.5 percent of fatal crashes involved a drowsy driver. It causes 100,000 crashes a year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. And 45 percent of the time the attention status of the driver is unknown, so the number of drowsy drivers is probably underreported. The likely underreporting is buffered by the fact that the AAA also found that more than one in four US drivers admits to having driven when they were “so sleepy [they] had a hard time keeping [their] eyes open” within the past month. Once again, young drivers are especially susceptible as well, with a reported one in ten 16-24 year olds driving drowsy once or even twice a week. asleep (alyssa l miller).jpg

Many of us lead busy lives. But if you are feeling drowsy and overly tired, please stay off the road. Call a cab or a friend to pick you up, or simply spend the night where you are. If you can’t do that, try to take a short nap before driving. A 15 to 20 minute nap will resort alertness for another hour or two. Forcing yourself to drive when you are exhausted may only cause an accident that may hurt you or others, so take precautions.

If you or someone in your family has suffered from a car crash, the Marietta car accident attorneys at Sammons & Carpenter are available to assist with determining whether you have a case and how to move forward. Please call us at 404-814-8948, or fill out our confidential online case evaluation form for a free consultation.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Speed and Failure to Wear Seatbelts Lead to Fatal Crash in Gwinnett County

Risky Teen Driving

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Georgia’s law on cell phone use while driving became effective on July 1, 2010 and allows most Georgia drivers to use handheld and hands-free cell phones while driving. However, there are two very important exceptions as the law places an absolute ban on all cell phone use (both handheld and hands-free) for bus drivers and drivers 18 years old or younger.

Although Georgia drivers are not prohibited from using cell phones while driving, it is a very dangerous distraction. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (also known as the NHTSA), talking on a cell phone, even if it is hands-free, saps the brain of 39% of the energy it would ordinarily devote to safe driving. The NHTSA also reports that using a cell phone while driving delays your reaction time as much as having a blood alcohol concentration of .08, the legal limit for drunk driving. Based on these statistics, it is not surprising that the NHTSA also reports that drivers who use a hand-held device are 4 times more likely to be involved in a crash serious enough to cause an injury! Therefore, to lower your risk of an injury-causing accident, it is important to take proper safety precautions when talking on a cell phone and driving. Or, better yet, put your cell phone away when you turn your ignition on.

Texting While Driving

Georgia’s texting while driving law places an absolute ban on texting for all drivers. An officer can ticket a driver for the offense without any other traffic violation taking place. In other words, it is NOT required that a Georgia driver first be pulled over for having committed another violation, such as running a red light or stop sign.

Texting while driving is even more dangerous than using a cell phone while driving because it involves manual, visual and cognitive distraction simultaneously. The NHTSA has found that texting drivers are 23 times more likely to be involved in a car accident. In fact, the NHTSA reports that sending or reading a text while driving requires a driver to takes his or her eyes off the road for 4.6 seconds! At 55 mph, that is comparable to driving the length of an entire football field, blindfolded! Therefore, it is much wiser and safer for all Georgia drivers to abide by the law and pull into a safe location before sending or reading a text message.

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Getting a driver’s license is a rite of passage for Atlanta, Georgia teenagers. Teenage driving is also a topic of great concern for parents and rightfully so. According to the Georgia Department of Driver Services (GDDS), in the year 2000, one out of five fatal crashes in Georgia involved speed, with drivers ages 16-17 having the highest rate of motor vehicle fatalities. Statistics like this led to a collaborative effort of highway safety advocates, legislators, law enforcement officials, educators, businesses and media for the creation of a number of laws aimed at educating and slowly introducing Georgia teenagers to the privilege of driving. These are laws that every Atlanta, Georgia parent should be familiar with as their teenager approaches driving age.

The first such law enacted by our Georgia Legislators is the Teenage and Adult Driver Responsibility Act (TADRA). Enacted on July 1, 1997, TADRA is a three-step educational process that requires Georgia teenagers obtain the experience they need before being granted a full license:

STEP ONE – INSTRUCTIONAL PERMIT (CP) – At the age of 15, a Georgia teenager can obtain an instructional permit upon the passing of a written examination. This type of permit allows a Georgia teenager to drive as long as they are accompanied by a passenger who is at least 21 years old and possesses a valid Class C driver’s license.

STEP TWO – INTERMEDIATE LICENSE (Class D) – Georgia teenagers between the ages of 16 and 18 who have held an Instructional Permit for 12 months, may take a driving test and if passed, they may obtain an Intermediate License (Class D). The Intermediate License has a number of very important restrictions:

1. No driving between the hours of 12 a.m. and 6 a.m. No exceptions.
2. Passenger restrictions:
• For the initial six-month period immediately following the issuance of an Intermediate License, a Georgia teenager may not drive with any other passenger in the vehicle that is not a member of the driver’s immediate family.
• During the second six-month period immediately following issuance of an Intermediate License, a Georgia teenager may not drive with more than one other passenger in the vehicle who is less than 21 years of age. This restriction does not apply to passengers that are members of the driver’s immediate family.
• After the second six-month period, a Georgia teenager may not drive with more than three other passengers in the vehicle who are less than 21 years of age. This restriction also does not apply to passengers that are members of the driver’s immediate family.

STEP THREE – FULL LICENSE (Class C) – A Georgia teenager who reaches the age of 18 having held an Intermediate License for 12 months and having incurred no major traffic convictions during that 12 month period will finally be granted a Class C License. The following violations must not occur during the preceding 12 month period:

• DUI
• Eluding a police officer
• Drag racing
• Reckless driving
• Hit and run
• Any violation that assesses four or more points on the driver’s license
The second law that every Atlanta, Georgia parent should be familiar with as their teenager approaches driving age is Georgia’s “Joshua’s Law.” Enacted on January 1, 2007, Joshua’s Law requires that all 16-year-olds applying for an Intermediate License (Class D) must complete a Department of Driver Services approved driver education course AND complete a total of 40 hours of supervised driving, 6 hours of which must be at night, with a parent or guardian’s sworn verification that these driving requirements have been met. Any Georgia teenager who has not completed an approved driver education course must wait until age 17 to be eligible for an Intermediate License. He or she must still complete a total of at least 40 hours of supervised driving, including at least 6 hours at night. The same verification in writing by a parent or guardian is required.

The third set of laws that every Atlanta, Georgia parent should be familiar with before allowing their teenager the privilege of driving concerns the use of a cell phone while driving. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, 16% of all distracted driving crashes involve drivers under the age of 20. Therefore, it should not be surprising that Georgia law regarding texting while driving bans texting for all drivers of any age. However, for Georgia teenagers holding an Intermediate License, Georgia law bans all cell phone use (both handheld and hands-free) while driving.

These laws have generally been viewed as successful in educating Georgia Teenagers in just how dangerous a motor vehicle can be as well as easing them into the privilege of driving a motor vehicle on Georgia roads. In fact, according to the GDDS, in the 18 months after the enactment of TADRA there was a 44.5 percent decline in teenage speed-related crashes, which was five times less than the rate of drivers over age 24. However, many believe that more is needed. Check back here frequently as we will post any updates to Georgia Law that parents of teenagers should be familiar with as soon as they are enacted.

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