Determining Liability After a Car Wreck in Georgia: The Rules of Overtaking

The Safe Way to Pass Cars in Georgia

Welcome back to our blog series on negligence per se! For those just joining us, negligence per se is the idea that any action that violates a rule intended to protect the public safety is, by definition, negligent. This means that anyone who causes an accident by violating the rules of the road (which are, after all, designed to keep everyone safe) is liable for any resulting damage.


Last week, we went over statute 40-6-41, which deals with what happens when two vehicles pass each other while moving in opposite directions. This week, we’ll talk about statutes 40-6-42, 40-6-43, 40-6-44, and 40-6-46, which are all about what happens when vehicles pass each other while moving in the same direction.


Overtaking on the Left

Most of us remember from driver’s ed that the left side is for passing, and slow vehicles should keep to the right. Statute 40-6-42 offers some more detail on how this maneuver is supposed to work.

40-6-42. Overtaking a vehicle on the left

The following rules shall govern the overtaking and passing of vehicles proceeding in the same direction, subject to those limitations, exceptions, and special rules stated in this article:

(1) The driver of a vehicle overtaking another vehicle proceeding in the same direction shall pass to the left thereof at a safe distance and shall not again drive to the right side of the roadway until safely clear of the overtaken vehicle; and

(2) Except when overtaking and passing on the right is permitted, the driver of an overtaken vehicle shall give way to the right in favor of the overtaking vehicle and shall not increase the speed of his vehicle until completely passed by the overtaking vehicle.


These instructions are written with two-lane roads in mind — one full lane in each direction. On this kind of road, a passing driver must move to the left and fully pass the other driver before attempting to re-enter the right lane. The driver being passed must yield to the passing driver, keeping to the right and not speeding up until the passing driver has rejoined the lane.


Statute 40-6-44 further explains the passing driver’s responsibility to yield to oncoming traffic.

40-6-44. Limitations on overtaking on the left

No vehicle shall be driven to the left side of the center of the roadway in overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction unless such left side is clearly visible and is free of oncoming traffic for a sufficient distance ahead to permit such overtaking and passing to be completely made without interfering with the operation of any vehicle approaching from the opposite direction or any vehicle overtaken. In every event, the overtaking vehicle shall return to an authorized lane of travel as soon as practicable and, in the event the passing movement involves the use of a lane authorized for vehicles approaching from the opposite direction, before coming within 200 feet of any approaching vehicle.


In other words, a driver attempting to pass someone on a two-lane road must first check for oncoming traffic, making sure there’s enough room to complete the maneuver without getting in the way of drivers moving in the opposite direction. After overtaking the slower vehicle, the passing driver must return to the right lane immediately.


Both the passing driver and the driver being passed can be guilty of negligence per se if they don’t observe these rules. The passing driver can cause an accident by failing to check for traffic, and the driver being passed can cause one by not allowing the passing driver back into the right lane. In either case, the driver who breaks these statutes is liable for the resulting damage.


Overtaking on the Right

After studying for the written driver’s test, many drivers wonder if they are technically breaking the law by passing other vehicles on the right when it seems obvious and practical to do so. The answer is generally no. Lesser known than the rules of passing on the left, statute 40-6-43 explains when and how to pass on the right.

40-6-43. When overtaking on the right is permitted

(a) The driver of a vehicle may overtake and pass upon the right of another vehicle only under the following conditions:

(1) When the vehicle overtaken is making or about to make a left turn; or

(2) Upon a street or highway with unobstructed pavement of sufficient width for two or more lanes of moving vehicles in the direction being traveled by the overtaking vehicle.

(b) If otherwise authorized, the driver of a vehicle may overtake and pass another vehicle upon the right only under conditions permitting such movement in safety. Such movement shall not be made by driving off the roadway.


O.C.G.A. § 40-6-43


In the real world, when multiple lanes of traffic are moving in the same direction, the left one won’t be the fastest 100% of the time, and that’s okay. Passing on the right is fine under those conditions, as long as it doesn’t require leaving the lanes altogether. You can also pass on the right on a two-lane street if the vehicle you’re passing is making a left turn.


No-Passing Zones

There are stretches of road where passing is illegal, usually because visibility isn’t good enough to check for oncoming traffic safely. Statute 40-6-46 explains how to recognize and drive within these zones.

40-6-46. No-passing zones

(a) The Department of Transportation and local authorities are authorized to determine those portions of any highway under their respective jurisdictions where overtaking and passing or driving to the left side of the roadway would be especially hazardous and may, by appropriate signs or markings on the roadway, indicate the beginning and end of such zones and, when such signs or markings are in place and clearly visible to an ordinarily observant person, every driver of a vehicle shall obey the directions thereof. Such no-passing zones shall be clearly marked by a solid barrier line placed on the right-hand element of a combination stripe along the center or lane line or by a solid double yellow line.

(b) Where signs or markings are in place to define a no-passing zone as set forth in subsection (a) of this Code section, no driver shall at any time drive on the left side of the roadway within such no-passing zone or on the left side of any pavement striping designed to mark such no-passing zone throughout its length.

(c) This Code section does not apply under the conditions described in paragraph (2) of subsection (a) of Code Section 40-6-40 nor to the driver of a vehicle turning left into or from an alley, private road, or driveway.


O.C.G.A. § 40-6-46


No-passing zones can be marked with signs, with a solid double yellow line, or with a double yellow line that’s solid on the right but dotted on the left. This last option indicates that passing is not allowed in the direction you’re driving, but is allowed in the opposite direction.


If there are multiple lanes of traffic moving in your direction, overtaking other vehicles is still okay in no-passing zones, as long as you keep to your half of the road. As we discussed in our post on statute 40-6-40, you can also cross the yellow line in a no-passing zone to turn left, or if an obstruction on your half of the road makes crossing it the only way to proceed. In that case, you’ll need to yield to oncoming traffic and proceed with extreme caution.


What Damages Can You Recover If Someone Breaks the Rules of Passing?

If someone causes an accident by passing at the wrong time or on the wrong side, or by failing to yield to a legally passing driver, that person is guilty of negligence per se and is responsible for any resulting harm to people or property. As a victim of someone else’s negligence on the road, you’re entitled to compensation in the form of “special” and “general” damages.


 “Special” Damages Compensate for Financial Losses

Special damages are damages awarded to reimburse you for your obvious, quantifiable losses, like the cost of medical care for your injuries, a new vehicle if yours was totaled, or lost wages if you had to miss work. Special damages are simpler to prove than general damages, but you will need to provide evidence, such as receipts, to receive this kind of settlement. You’ll also need to prove that your expenses didn’t just happen to arise after the accident, but were directly or proximately cause by the at-fault driver’s actions. To learn more about proving direct or proximate cause, click here.


 “General” Damages Compensate for Non-Financial Losses

Pain, long-term disability, psychological trauma, and missing out on the things you love are all common after effects of a serious traffic accident, and they can’t be assigned a price. Short of turning back time, however, a payment for general damages is the best way we have of acknowledging and compensating for these kinds of non-financial losses. If you lost the use of your legs, for example, no amount of money will ever make that right, but adapting to a new way of life will certainly be easier if you don’t have to worry about how you’ll keep your family fed along the way. Because general damages have such a subjective value, it’s especially important to have an excellent advocate working to get you the best settlement.


What If the Accident Was Fatal?

In that event, your case goes from being personal injury to wrongful death. Though nothing can ever bring back a lost loved one, the Wetherington Law Firm can help you in your pursuit of justice. To learn about wrongful death cases and their different rules, click here.


Why Do I Need a Lawyer?

Victims of traffic accidents generally receive much better settlements with the help of a qualified lawyer than without one. That’s because, as clear-cut as your case may seem, auto insurance companies are experts at clouding the issue and picking apart the arguments of those in need. The process of obtaining a fair settlement is complicated and stressful, and having an expert in your corner makes a world of difference in helping you avoid both headaches and costly errors.


How to Hire the Best Car Wreck Lawyers in Atlanta

Luckily, with the Wetherington Law Firm, hiring an expert costs you nothing but a share of the final settlement — less than what going without representation would typically cost in the long run. We believe strongly that no case should ever be determined by which side can outspend the other, so once we take you on, we’ll stick by you to the end, and we work exclusively on a contingency fee basis, which means we only get paid when we get results.


To talk to one of our experienced attorneys right now, just give us a call at 404-888-4444 or use the form on the right side of the article.


The Wetherington Law Firm Believes in Activism Through Litigation

Do you want more than just fair compensation for your losses? Are you looking for legal representation to help you change the world for the better? At the Wetherington Law Firm, we love opportunities to help more people than just our own clients. We’ll work with you to get to the bottom of what caused your accident, whether it’s one negligent driver, an organization with inadequate driver training policies, or a poorly designed stretch of road. Even if it makes winning a settlement more difficult, we’ll stand by you and fight to fix the underlying problem. To learn more about how you case could make a difference in the lives of others, reach out today! We can’t wait to hear from you.







Have You Been Hit By a Passing Car?

Do you want more than just fair compensation for your losses? At the Wetherington Law Firm we work with you to get to the bottom of what caused your accident, whether it’s one negligent driver, an organization with inadequate driver training policies, or a poorly designed stretch of road.