Determining The Right-of Way in Georgia’s
Have you ever done the right-of way dance? Most of us have. It happens when we come to an intersection, especially an uncontrolled intersection, where not everyone is certain of the rules. You move forward, then brake because the other driver moved at the same time, and then a few seconds later, you both do it again.
The rules do continue to exist, however, even where there are no signs, and that’s what we’ll be talking about today.
If you’re just joining us, we’ve been discussing how the rules of the road can help determine civil liability after a car accident, based on the concept of negligence per se. Basically, if someone breaks a safety rule, like a rule of the road, and hurts someone else in the process, that rule-breaking behavior is automatically considered negligent, making the person liable in court.
Last week, we talked about OCGA 40-6-52 and OCGA 40-6-53, which are about what lanes trucks and buses are allowed to use. Today, we’ll cover OCGA 40-6-70, which is about how to enter a road or uncontrolled intersection legally.
OCGA 40-6-70 specifically talks about what happens when two vehicles traveling on two highways reach an intersection at approximately the same time.
OCGA § 40-6-70. Vehicle approaching or entering intersection
(a) When two vehicles approach or enter an intersection from different highways at approximately the same time, the driver of the vehicle on the left shall yield the right of way to the vehicle on the right, provided that when a vehicle approaches or enters an intersection with no stop signs or other traffic-control devices from a highway that terminates at the intersection, the driver of that vehicle shall yield the right of way to the other vehicle, whether the latter vehicle be on such driver’s right or left.
There are a few important terms to define here.
Firstly, a “highway” is any space that’s publically maintained for the purpose of moving vehicles — in other words, any kind of road at all. So, this statute isn’t really about major interchanges between interstate freeways, as it will tell you itself.
(b) The right of way rule declared in subsection (a) of this Code section is modified at through highways and otherwise as stated in this chapter.
Rather, it’s about much smaller scale scenarios where two cars meet on roads that are usually quiet enough not to require much in the way of traffic control devices.
Secondly, for the purposes of this statute, “approximately the same time” is usually interpreted to mean that the vehicles are arriving at close enough to the same time that they would likely hit each other if both of them proceeded at speed.
So, to avoid that collision, what are the drivers supposed to do? In an uncontrolled, four-way intersection, the driver on the left is required to yield to the driver on the right. However, in an uncontrolled T intersection, the driver arriving from the road that ends (the stem of the T) must yield to any driver arriving from the road that continues (the bar of the T), whether from the left or the right.
When Is an Intersection “Uncontrolled”?
An uncontrolled intersection is an intersection without traffic control devices, such as stop signs and traffic lights. The rules for an uncontrolled intersection are similar to those for a four-way stop with stop signs, except that the four-way stop requires all vehicles to stop before entering the intersection, whether there’s another vehicle to yield to or not. Because of this, it’s easier to tell which vehicle arrives first at a four-way stop, so yielding to the first car usually takes the place of yielding to the right, although the car on the right still has right of way in case of a tie.
If there are traffic lights present at an intersection, it is no longer uncontrolled, even if the lights are not following the usual green-yellow-red cycle, or not functioning at all.
When two vehicles approach or enter an intersection with a traffic light in unactivated dark mode, the driver of each vehicle shall be required to stop in the same manner as if a stop sign were facing in each direction at the intersection.
If the traffic lights are functioning normally, drivers will, of course, need to follow their instructions. If the lights are flashing yellow, drivers don’t necessarily have to stop, but they’re warned to proceed with caution. If the lights flash red or are completely dark, drivers should treat the intersection as a four-way stop and not as uncontrolled. However, there are two exceptions to this rule.
Drivers shall not be required to stop if the traffic signal is properly signed as a pedestrian hybrid beacon or ramp meter and operating in the unactivated dark mode. When a flashing indication is given, the driver shall stop for the flashing red signal and exhibit caution while passing through a flashing yellow indication.
If the lights present at the intersection are only there to regulate the flow of traffic onto a ramp, or to protect pedestrian traffic when manually activated, the intersection can be treated as uncontrolled when the lights are not in use.
Entering a Road from the Middle
This post is also a good moment to mention statute OCGA 40-6-73, which deals with vehicles entering roads from private drives, parking lots, and anywhere else other than another road.
§ 40-6-73. Vehicle entering roadway
The driver of a vehicle about to enter or cross a roadway from any place other than another roadway shall yield the right of way to all vehicles approaching on the roadway to be entered or crossed.
The rule here is simple. When entering or crossing a road from someplace other than another road, yield to all traffic.
What Damages Can You Recover If Someone Enters a Road or Intersection Out of Turn?
The places where traffic from different directions meets or crosses are some of the most common places for accidents, and they usually happen when someone doesn’t yield the right of way when they should. If you’ve been injured by someone cutting into traffic from a driveway, or failing to yield to the right in an uncontrolled intersection, that person is liable for the damages under negligence per se. It’s important to note, however, that everyone is required to stay alert and use caution while navigating intersections, even when we have the right of way, and avoid accidents whenever possible. If you weren’t paying close attention and didn’t brake as soon as possible when the other driver barreled forward, you’ll probably still be eligible for a settlement, especially if you broke no other laws, but the amount may be reduced by your shared responsibility for the accident.
To calculate the settlement you’re owed, the court will have to determine not only the shares of responsibility attributable to each party involved in the accident, but also the value of the damages. For this purpose, damages are divided up into “special” and “general” categories.
“Special” Damages Are the Damages You Can Easily Put a Price On
Money can buy things like medical care, a replacement vehicle, and food delivery while you’re too injured to shop and cook. It can keep your rent and bills covered while you’re unable to work, and take care of lots of other challenges, big and small, that you’ll likely be facing in the aftermath of a serious accident. That’s what the special damages portion of your settlement is for. To win that settlement, you’ll need documentation of the expenses you need covered. We’ll also work with you to prove that those expenses are the direct or proximate result of the defendant’s negligent actions. To learn more about the difference between direct and proximate cause and how to prove them, click here.
“General” Damages Are the Damages Without a Price
Money can’t buy things like a fully functioning and pain-free body, a feeling of safety and confidence behind the wheel, the satisfaction you get from your work, or the good times with family and friends you missed out on while you were stuck in bed. Unfortunately, in our imperfect world, money is the best compensation we have available for these kinds of non-financial losses. Putting a price tag on priceless things is a difficult process that turns out differently in every case, but having an experienced lawyer to advocate for you can make a huge difference in how highly your pain and loss are valued and respected in court.
What If I Lost Someone in the Accident?
The life of a loved one is a tremendous loss, and the law recognizes the seriousness of losing someone to another person’s negligence. If it was a fatal accident that led you to our blog, you should know that wrongful death cases have their own rules, separate from personal injury cases. To learn more about wrongful death and how we can help, click here.
Why Do I Need a Lawyer?
The outcome of a personal injury case can determine the trajectory of the rest of your life. A favorable ruling can allow you to focus on healing comfortably, while an unfavorable one (or a quick, cheap insurance payout) can leave you and your family floundering in unexpected and often insurmountable debt. Once you agree to a payment that won’t cover your entire recovery process, it becomes nearly impossible to get additional help in the future. At the Wetherington Law Firm, we know what a bad outcome looks like and how to avoid it. We’ll guide you through that minefield, make sure the long-term effects of the accident into consideration, and get you the fair compensation you need.
How to Hire the Best Car Wreck Lawyers in Atlanta
The moment when you most need a lawyer is usually the worst possible moment for you to have to worry about how you’re going to pay for one. You’re already facing all those immediate expenses that come after an accident, and you don’t yet have the settlement that ought to pay for them. That’s why you’re here. At the Wetherington Law Firm, we understand that. It’s why we work on contingency.
When you hire us, you owe nothing. Not when we consult with you, not when we take your case, not at any moment before we win you that settlement and set you up to carry on with your life the way you want to.
To get started with a free, no obligation consultation on your case, just contact us using the form to the right, or pick up the phone! We’d love to talk with you.
The Wetherington Law Firm Can Help You Make a Difference in Your Community
People who find themselves having to seek justice in court are often not alone. What happens to one person has usually happened to others. If you believe your accident was just a symptom of a deeper problem you’d like to see addressed, we’ll be happy to help you use your case to create the change you believe in. Whether it’s something as simple as getting stop signs installed in an intersection that’s become too busy to stay uncontrolled, or as big as changing the driver training policies for an entire fleet of city vehicles, we want to hear about the impact you want your case to have. To learn more about how we’ve already helped our clients make the world a better place, and how we can help you do the same, give us a call today!