Navigating Car Accidents in One-Way Roadways and Traffic Circles
Thanks for joining us for another installment of our ongoing blog series on Georgia’s rules of the road, and how they can help determine liability after an accident! To recap, any time a person causes harm to another person while breaking a rule intended to protect public safety, the rule-breaker is automatically liable for the damages. This concept is called negligence per se.
Because the rules of the road are intended to protect public safety, there are as many ways to commit negligence per se on the road as there are statutes to break.
Last week, we talked about statutes 40-6-42, 40-6-43, 40-6-44, and 40-6-46, which govern how vehicles are allowed to pass each other while moving in the same direction. This week, we’ll go over statutes 40-6-47 and 40-6-240, both of which deal with driving in the correct direction on one-way streets and lanes.
Using One-Way Roads
The first two sections of statute 40-6-47 simply state that some roads or stretches of road may be marked as “one-way,” meaning drivers may only use them to travel in the direction indicated.
§ 40-6-47. One-way roadways and rotary traffic islands
(a) The Department of Transportation and local authorities with respect to highways under their respective jurisdictions may designate any highway, roadway, part of a roadway, or specific lanes upon which vehicular traffic shall proceed in one direction at all of such times as shall be indicated by official traffic-control devices.
(b) Upon a roadway so designated for one-way traffic, a vehicle shall be driven only in the direction designated at all or such times as shall be indicated by official traffic-control devices.
Unless a road is narrow enough to have passing zones or no lanes at all, the same basic concept that applies to a one-way street also applies to each side of a two-way street. Drivers must drive in the direction the road or lane was intended for. Anyone who drives in the wrong direction is risking a collision and is liable for any resulting harm under the concept of negligence per se.
Some roads and lanes may be designated for different directions at different times of day or different days of the week, so it’s important to pay attention to lights, signs, and other traffic control signals to avoid ending up at odds with the flow of traffic.
Using Traffic Circles
Statute 40-6-47 also includes a brief mention of how to use traffic circles.
(c) A vehicle passing around a rotary traffic island shall be driven only to the right of such island.
Traffic circles confuse many U.S drivers, but they’re actually fairly simple and efficient to use. The important thing to remember is that traffic only flows around them in one direction — counterclockwise, in the case of U.S roads.
It helps to imagine a pair of vehicles approaching the traffic circle intersection from opposite directions. If neither driver wants to make a turn, they can both proceed onward by keeping right, just as they would at an intersection with no circle.
All other traffic circle maneuvers begin the same way: by keeping right while entering the circle. Once in the intersection, the driver can then continue around the circle for as long as desired before exiting. In a typical four-way intersection, leaving the circle at the first opportunity would result in a right turn, second opportunity would be proceeding straight, third would be a left turn, and fourth would be a U-turn.
Some traffic circles are accompanied by stop signs, but in most cases, drivers arriving at the circle only need to yield to any vehicles already in the intersection, with no need to stop if there’s no traffic in the way.
As you can imagine, a driver attempting to enter a busy traffic circle from the left would have the same devastating effect as one driving the wrong way down a one-way street. That’s why it’s illegal under the same statute.
What About Backing Up?
Most people know better than to drive on the wrong side of the road for no reason, or ignore a “wrong way” sign and turn down a one-way street in the wrong direction, but what about backing up? If your vehicle is still facing in the correct direction, is it ever okay to move in reverse on a public road?
That’s what statute 40-6-240 is all about.
§ 40-6-240. Limitations on backing
(a) A driver shall not back a vehicle unless such movement can be made with safety and without interfering with other traffic.
(b) A driver of a vehicle shall not back a vehicle upon any shoulder or roadway of any controlled-access highway.
Basically, reversing on a one-way street or lane is only acceptable as long as it doesn’t get in the way of other drivers or risk an accident. Backing up into a parallel parking space is usually okay, but you can’t force other drivers to back up and make room for you. If you missed the driveway you meant to turn into on a completely empty street, you can probably get away with backing up a few feet to get to it, but if you hit someone, that’s on you.
Reversing to avoid a roadblock gives police probable cause to stop you, even if the maneuver was arguably safe, and on freeways, where the speed of traffic can make a seemingly safe situation turn dangerous very suddenly, reversing is illegal 100% of the time, even on the shoulder.
What Damages Can You Recover If Someone Drives in the Wrong Direction?
Driving against the flow of traffic is an easy way to cause a serious accident, and a definitive example of negligence per se. If you’ve been injured by someone driving on the wrong side of the road, driving the wrong way down a one-way street, entering a traffic circle from the wrong side, or reversing without checking for traffic, you’re entitled to compensation. Any settlement for this kind of injury will be divided into “special damages” and “general damages,” which we’ll explain below.
Reimbursement for Accident-Related Expenses Is Called “Special” Damages
Recovering from a car accident is expensive. Depending on the severity of the crash, you might just need a few doctor’s appointments to treat obvious injuries and rule out less visible damage, or you might need emergency surgery and a lifetime’s worth of physical therapy and in-home support. You might miss a few days of work while you take care of yourself, or you might need to change careers or leave work altogether. You’ll also probably need to repair or replace your vehicle, or work out alternative transportation. Special damages are intended to cover these kinds of expenses and make sure you don’t lose your savings or end up having to go without treatment or other necessities. To collect special damages, you’ll need to document your expenses carefully, and prove that they were directly or proximately caused by the accident. To learn more about direct and proximate cause, click here.
Compensation for Non-Financial Pain and Loss Is Called “General” Damages
Expenses are just one part of the painful, stressful aftermath of a car accident. Even if you’re not losing any money, your injuries still might force you to miss out on everything from playing in the park with your kids, to attending that concert you were looking forward to, to simply enjoying a relaxing evening in front of the TV without pain. General damages are an additional amount awarded on top of the easily calculated special damages, in acknowledgement of the priceless things you’ve lost. Calculations of general damages can vary greatly from one case to another, precisely because they’re awarded for things that have no price. Having an experienced lawyer on your side to help explain your situation can make a huge difference in your final settlement.
What If Someone Died in the Crash?
The Wetherington Law Firm proudly represents wrongful death cases in addition to personal injury cases, but the rules for these are somewhat different. To learn more about wrongful death and how we can help you find justice for your lost loved one, click here.
Why Do I Need a Lawyer?
When it comes to avoiding paying fair settlements, auto insurance companies are experts. They excel at laying traps and asking trick questions, and one wrong move can irrevocably ruin your case, no matter how airtight the facts may seem. To have a real chance of collecting the compensation you deserve, you need an expert on your side too. At the Wetherington Law Firm, we have years of experience successfully arguing cases just like yours. We’ll walk you through every step of the process, help you avoid the pitfalls, and take as much stress and uncertainty as possible off your shoulders.
How to Hire the Best Car Wreck Lawyers in Atlanta
The Wetherington Law Firm only accepts payment on a contingency basis. That means you pay nothing until and unless we win. We take pride in offering top-notch representation to individuals who would normally be outspent and forced out of court by wealthy corporate interests. If we take your case, that means we’ll be in it with you from beginning to end, using all the considerable skill and experience at our disposal to get you the results you want.
To discuss your case with a lawyer today, just email us or give us a call at 404-888-4444 for a free consultation.
When You Hire the Wetherington Law Firm, You’re Helping Make the World a Better Place
At the Wetherington Law Firm, we believe in using the law to effect real change in the world. We’re always thrilled to work with clients who think big and want not just compensation for their own injuries, but a solution to the underlying problem that caused them. If your accident happened on a particularly dangerous, badly designed, or under-maintained stretch of road, be sure to let us know. We’ll have a discussion about what you’d like to see changed for the good of other drivers and pedestrians, and what we can do to make that happen. To learn more about the work we do changing our community for the better, reach out by phone or email!