Accidents By Slow Drivers on Georgia Roads
Welcome back to our ongoing blog series on negligence per se and Georgia’s rules of the road!
Last week, we talked about statute 40-6-181, which is the one drivers are breaking when they speed. This week, we’ll be talking about statute 40-6-184 and the opposite problem: drivers who move too slowly.
Remember, these road statutes are useful for establishing civil liability after an accident, because of negligence per se. Negligence per se is the idea that breaking a safety rule (like a road statute) is always unreasonable behavior, meaning that a person who causes damage by doing so is automatically liable for the results.
Let’s have a look at how this applies to those slow drivers so many of us love to hate.
How Slow Can You Go?
Statute 40-6-184 doesn’t specify an exact speed that drivers must legally maintain, or a permissible range below the speed limit. It simply notes that drivers may not get in the way of normal traffic by driving too slowly.
(a) No person shall drive a motor vehicle at such a slow speed as to impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic, except when reduced speed is necessary for safe operation.
Of course, this rule never requires drivers to break speed limits or behave unsafely. It doesn’t mean that people should drive normally through a pouring rainstorm, or try to ram their way through a traffic jam. But when it’s safe, legal, and possible, all drivers do have a responsibility to keep up with the flow and avoid causing unnecessary slowdowns.
Minimum Speed Limits
While driving too slowly is less common than speeding, local authorities may decide to address slow driving if it becomes a frequent problem in a particular area. One way they can do this is by posting minimum speed limit signs in addition to maximum speed limits.
(b) Whenever the commissioner of public safety or the commissioner of transportation or local authorities determine on the basis of any engineering and traffic investigation that slow speeds on any part of a road under their respective jurisdictions impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic, such commissioners jointly, or such local authorities, may determine and declare a minimum speed limit below which no person shall drive a vehicle except when necessary for safe operation, and such limit shall be effective when posted upon fixed or variable signs.
Unlike maximum speed limits, minimum speed limits have exceptions for prohibitive road and traffic conditions, as well as for drivers who’ve just turned onto a road and haven’t had time to get up to speed yet. However, if there’s no legal or safety-related reason not to, drivers must obey minimum speed limits as they would any other sign or traffic control device.
Driving Slowly in the Left Lane
If you’ve ever been stuck behind a slow driver in the fast lane, you’ll be happy to know that 40-6-184 specifically forbids drivers in the left lane from blocking faster vehicles.
(c) Upon roads, streets, or highways with two or more lanes allowing for movement in the same direction, no person shall continue to operate a motor vehicle in the passing lane once such person knows or should reasonably know that he or she is being overtaken in such lane from the rear by a motor vehicle traveling at a higher rate of speed. For purposes of this Code section, “passing lane” means the most left-hand lane other than a high occupancy vehicle lane.
Much like large trucks, bicycles, and other slower vehicles are required to keep right when possible, drivers who are moving slowly for other reasons must also move over to the right when a faster-moving vehicle approaches. Or, better yet, drivers who need to take it slow should avoid using the leftmost lane altogether.
Keeping to the right helps slower drivers minimize their disruption of traffic patterns. However, if a driver is breaking a minimum speed limit or causing a significant slowdown for no reason, that driver’s conduct is still illegal under 40-6-184, even in the right lane.
The duty of slower vehicles to yield the left lane to faster ones does have several exceptions, also laid out in 40-6-184.
(1) When traffic conditions or congestion make it necessary to drive in the passing lane;
(2) When inclement weather, obstructions, or hazards make it necessary to drive in the passing lane;
(3) When compliance with a law of this state or with an official traffic control device makes it necessary to drive in the passing lane;
(4) When a vehicle must be driven in the passing lane to exit or turn left;
(5) On toll highways, when necessary to pay a toll or use a pass;
(6) To authorized emergency vehicles engaged in official duties; or
(7) To vehicles engaged in highway maintenance and construction operations.
Basically, if there’s any legal, practical, or safety-related reason why a driver can’t move over, then moving over is not required. For example, if the slower vehicle is slowing down in order to make a left turn, or because of heavy traffic affecting all lanes, then that driver has as much right to use the left lane as anyone else. Emergency, maintenance, and construction vehicles are also exempt from moving over.
What Damages Can You Recover After an Accident with a Slow-Moving Driver?
It can be harder to recover compensation from a slow-moving driver than from a speeding driver, because post-accident settlements are calculated according to percentages of fault. Even though driving slowly for no reason is illegal, annoying, and unsafe, accidents with slow drivers usually happen when another driver makes a risky, impulsive move to get around them. This means the other driver has often broken a law as well, or at least neglected their duty to prevent accidents whenever possible.
That said, statute 40-6-184 still counts as a safety rule, so if you’ve been in an accident caused by someone breaking that rule, their negligence per se entitles you to compensation as long as you’re found to be less than 50% responsible for the accident yourself.
Of course, slow driving isn’t just hazardous to people who don’t handle frustration well. Any time there’s a collision on the road, everyone in the vicinity is in danger of being involved. If, for example, someone rear-ends you in their haste to get around a slow driver behind you, you might be able to recover compensation from the slow driver, as well as the one who directly hit you.
Any settlement you do receive will be divided into special and general damages.
Special Damages Are Specific, Monetary Losses
The losses covered under special damages are the most obvious and easiest to explain. After a serious car accident, you’ll probably face unexpected medical expenses. For many people, a car is a financial lifeline, so you’ll also probably need to replace yours quickly, which is never cheap. In the meantime, you might be missing work, whether for medical reasons, transportation reasons, or both. If your injuries are very severe, they might even reduce your earning power for the rest of your life. All of these factors affecting your finances will need to be taken into account and tallied up to determine a fair special damages settlement. While special damages are more objective than general damages, car insurance companies will still do their best to rationalize paying you as little as possible, so you’ll need to keep thorough documentation of every expense and get a good lawyer to prove how those expenses were directly or proximately caused by the slow driver’s negligence. Click here to learn more about direct and proximate cause.
General Damages Are Incalculable Emotional Losses
Harder to quantify, but no less important, are your general damages. This part of your settlement is intended to cover everything you’ve lost that can’t be expressed in numbers. Where there’s a medical bill, there’s also usually pain, inconvenience, and anxiety that can’t be undone just by paying that bill. Likewise, where there’s lost income, there might be a career path thrown off track, which can seriously impact a survivor’s self-worth and sense of identity. Additional monetary compensation can’t erase these losses, but it’s the best way the law has of honoring them, and it can at least give a family time to process and rebuild without unnecessary financial stress. Because general damages are so much harder to express and pin down in numbers than special damages, it’s even more important to have a skilled lawyer to help you pursue this kind of settlement.
What If the Slow Driver Has Killed Someone?
In these especially serious situations, the rules are a little different. If you’re considering pursuing justice for a lost loved one through litigation, we encourage you to have a look at our page explaining the basics of wrongful death cases. When you’re ready, give us a call for a free consultation on your situation.
Why Do I Need a Lawyer?
As noted above, car insurance companies will always do everything possible to pay out as little as they can. When you’ve survived a car accident caused by someone else, that’s who your real opponent will be in court, not the other driver, but the other driver’s insurance company. The lawyers at the Wetherington Law Firm know how brutal insurance legal departments can be, because some of us worked for insurance companies before moving on and devoting our skills to helping people like you. We know their tactics and how to counter them, and we’re also experts at demonstrating the true depth of our client’s losses, to ensure they’re fairly compensated. Seeking compensation in court is a stressful, confusing, high-stakes process, and not something anyone should ever have to improvise their way through alone. When you work with the Wetherington Law Firm, you can rest assured that your case is in good hands, and reserve more of your own energy to focus on your recovery.
How to Hire the Best Car Wreck Lawyers in Atlanta
The Wetherington Law Firm works on a contingency basis only, which means we don’t accept payment until we get you your settlement. You don’t owe us anything upfront or by the hour, and if we don’t win, you don’t pay at all.
We prefer this business model because we’re passionate about using our talents to do as much good as we can in the world. Working on contingency allows us to represent the people who need and deserve professional representation the most.
To get started with a free consultation, give us a call at 404-888-4444, or reach out through the contact form on the right.
The Wetherington Law Firm Loves Helping Clients Change the World
In addition to working with clients who need quality representation with no out-of-pocket charges, we’re also especially fond of clients who want to use their cases to make the world a better place. If there’s something you want to see happen, beyond getting compensated for your losses, let us know, and we’ll dig until we get to the root of the problem. If you were injured on a street where excessively slow driving is common, for example, we’ll consult with local authorities about the possibility of posting and enforcing a minimum speed limit. To learn more about the causes we’ve helped our clients pursue in the past, just call and ask us!