Using Turn Signals Properly on Georgia Roads
Have you ever been taken off guard by a driver changing lanes without signaling? Did you wonder if what they were doing was illegal, or just inconsiderate?
Well, today we’re going to be talking about the basic rules for using turn signals, and how violating these rules can qualify as negligence per se.
Remember, negligence per se is a legal concept that states that breaking a safety rule is inherently negligent behavior. This makes establishing civil liability much simpler than it is in cases where someone is hurt but no clear rules have been broken. All the rules of the road count as safety rules, so car accidents are a very common situation for negligence per se to come up.
Last week, we talked about how negligence per se applies to illegal U-turns, as defined by OCGA 40-6-121. Now, let’s move on to the rules of turn signals, as explained in OCGA 40-6-123.
When to Use Turn Signals
Any time a driver wishes to make a turn at an intersection or driveway, change lanes, or enter traffic from a parallel parking space, that driver must both use a turn signal and check that the maneuver can be completed safely before beginning.
(a) No person shall turn a vehicle at an intersection unless the vehicle is in proper position upon the roadway as required in Code Section 40-6-120 or turn a vehicle to enter a private road or driveway or otherwise turn a vehicle from a direct course or change lanes or move right or left upon a roadway unless and until such movement can be made with reasonable safety. No person shall so turn any vehicle without giving an appropriate and timely signal in the manner provided in this Code section.
Drivers making turns must also start from the correct lane. For typical commuter vehicles, right turns must start from the right lane, and left turns must start from the leftmost of the lanes that are traveling in the correct direction. When a left turn lane is provided, drivers turning left are required to use it.
How Long to Use Turn Signals
OCGA 40-6-123 doesn’t specify an exact distance or length of time for turn signals to be used, but it does note that other drivers should have time to recognize the signal and respond accordingly.
(b) A signal of intention to turn right or left or change lanes when required shall be given continuously for a time sufficient to alert the driver of a vehicle proceeding from the rear in the same direction or a driver of a vehicle approaching from the opposite direction.
Common wisdom typically recommends 100 feet of signaling on city roads and 900 feet on freeways. When signaling a turn, it’s a good idea to keep signals as unambiguous as possible. For example, if a driver passes several driveways on the right while using a right turn signal, other drivers may think the signal has been left on by mistake and be unprepared for the vehicle’s right turn when it finally happens.
For the same reason, drivers should not display active turn signals while proceeding straight through an intersection, even if they plan to make a turn or lane change soon afterward.
Other Forms of Signals
Signals are also important for letting other drivers know when a vehicle is about to slow down rapidly.
(c) No person shall stop or suddenly decrease the speed of a vehicle without first giving an appropriate signal in the manner provided in this Code section to the driver of any vehicle immediately to the rear when there is an opportunity to give such signal.
Most vehicles have brake lights, which issue this signal automatically when the driver touches the brake. Because drivers don’t have to think about activating this signal when their vehicles are working properly, it’s an easy one to forget when something goes wrong. However, just like turn signals, drivers are required to give brake signals by hand if the necessary lights on the vehicle aren’t working.
How to give signals by hand isn’t mentioned until statute 40-6-125, but we’ll include them here. Extending the left arm upward indicates a right turn or lane change, extending it outward indicates a left turn or lane change, and extending it downward indicates a slowdown or stop.
When Not to Use Turn Signals
As well as detailing the moments when turn signals are required, statute 40-6-123 also mentions one important scenario in which they should not be used.
(d) The signals provided for in subsection (b) of Code Section 40-6-124 shall be used to indicate an intention to turn, change lanes, or start from a parked position and shall not be flashed on one side only on a parked or disabled vehicle or flashed as a courtesy or “do pass” signal to operators of other vehicles approaching from the rear.
If a vehicle’s emergency flashers can’t be activated for any reason, turn signals should never be used as a substitute. This might seem like an intuitive solution, because many vehicles use some of the same physical lights for both purposes, but using turn signals this way is more confusing than helpful. If a stopped or disabled vehicle has its lights flashing on only one side, other drivers may try to make way for it to rejoin traffic or change lanes, instead of simply proceeding carefully past it.
What Damages Can You Recover After Someone Misuses a Turn Signal?
If you’ve been hurt in an accident caused by a driver not signaling, or making a turn or lane change at an unsafe time, negligence per se is on your side. The compensation you’ll be entitled to will depend on whether there’s any other blame to go around beyond the non-signaling driver’s actions, and on the extent of the damages. These damages will be divided into “special” and “general” categories, which we’ll discuss in more detail below.
Special Damages Are Quantifiable Financial Losses
When you first start taking stock of what you’ve lost to an accident, the obvious first losses that spring to mind will usually be special damages. Things like your car, the money you owe for medical care, and the hours you’ve missed at work all qualify as special damages. All of these losses are eligible for reimbursement in a settlement, but you’ll need to provide thorough documentation of each expense and prove that the non-signaling driver was the cause of them, whether directly or proximately. To learn more about direct and proximate cause, click here.
General Damages Are Emotional, Non-Financial Losses
While special damages are the easiest kinds of losses to tally up, it’s usually the general damages that hurt the most. General damages are the priceless things that many accident survivors lose, such as peace of mind on the road, time at home with family instead of in a hospital, or a fully-functioning, pain-free body. Because these losses can never be truly reimbursed, a great deal is left up to the judge and jury’s subjective personal views when determining the sum of a general damages settlement. Having a dedicated and experienced lawyer on your side to explain the severity of your losses on your behalf can make a tremendous difference in the amount you will receive.
What If a Neglected Turn Signal Caused a Death?
If the accident in question was a fatal one, then your case is not one of personal injury, but of wrongful death. Click here to learn more about wrongful death and how the Wetherington Law Firm can help you find justice for your deceased loved one.
Why Do I Need a Lawyer?
If you’re looking for a way to minimize expenses, as is often the case after a car accident, we promise there are better ways to go about it than representing yourself in your pursuit of fair compensation. Accident survivors with qualified, professional representation almost always end up financially better off than those who try to go it alone. This is partly because the insurance companies who are responsible for paying post-accident settlements are masters of avoiding and minimizing those settlements. An ideal balance sheet for an insurance company is one with lots of premiums paid to them and no settlements paid by them, and their entire business model revolves around making reality as close as possible to that exploitative goal. You need someone just as skilled and experienced on your side to make sure the insurance company pays out what you’re fairly owed. The Wetherington Law Firm can help you do just that.
How to Hire the Best Car Wreck Lawyers in Atlanta
You don’t need to be rich to take on a rich insurance company. At the Wetherington Law Firm, we’re dedicated to making sure the people who need legal representation the most are never forced out of court just because they don’t have the funds to keep a legitimate case going.
When you work with us, you don’t pay a dime until you get the full-sized settlement you deserve. Until then, we’ll work tirelessly to make sure your case is heard fairly, and defend you from any underhanded tricks your insurance company opponent might attempt.
To get started talking to a lawyer about your case, call us any time, or send us an email through the form on the right.
The Wetherington Law Firm Believes in Making a Difference Bigger than Ourselves
If you feel your case is about more than just your own injuries, and you’re looking for a lawyer who shares your vision for a safer, fairer world, you’ve come to the right place. Whether it’s a poorly designed intersection, a manufacturer’s defect in a car, or a professional driver’s dangerously exhausting work schedule, we believe in examining all of an accident’s contributing factors and addressing any underlying problems.
We’ll be happy to help you use your case to push for lasting change that will protect others, even if it means a bigger challenge with a smaller monetary payoff. As far as you want to go to make the world a better place, we’re behind you.
To learn more about how we’ve used litigation to help others as well as our own clients, give us a call and ask!