Understanding the laws surrounding some of the most dangerous drivers on the road.
Whether you were hit by a reckless, distracted or aggressive driver may not matter to you. Anyone who damages your car and injures you and/or your loved ones is a menace on the road, in your eyes.
Georgia, has different laws regarding these dangerous driving practices, yet the civil lawsuits are all negligence claims with the same criteria. All three claims establish that the driver wasn’t driving in a manner that was safe to other motorists, cyclists and pedestrians. In demonstrating the driver’s unsafe behavior, an accident survivor opens the door to a significant amount of damages.
Aggressive driving accidents in Georgia
Road rage is the first thing that comes to mind when a lot of people think of aggressive driving. Aggressive driving is actually a crime, however, and it expands to more than simply being angry behind the wheel. Any driving that displays negative intentions towards other drivers can qualify as aggressive driving. Common examples include:
- Speeding, especially in dense traffic
- Cutting in front of another vehicle and then deliberately slowing down while in front of that vehicle
- Driving through red lights or stop signs
- Weaving in and out of traffic
- Changing lanes without signaling
- Preventing other cars from passing or changing lanes
- Using headlights or brakes to annoy or anger other drivers
- Incessant honking
Though many of the above behaviors are conducted by angry drivers, others are done by those in a hurry or those who are merely impatient in traffic.
Road rage is typically limited to actions intended to harm other drivers. The Automobile Association of America (AAA) lists the following as examples of road rage:
- Cursing and rude or obscene gestures
- Throwing objects
- Forcing a driver off the road
Road rage and aggressive driving are among the most dangerous driving practices. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) states that these practices cause at least one third of all car accidents each year.
If you or a loved one was injured by an aggressive driver, it’s strongly encouraged that you consider pursuing a personal injury lawsuit in Georgia. Aggressive driving is a classic negligence claim as these drivers breach their duty to drive in a reasonable and responsible manner. With no limit on pain and suffering damages in Georgia and the possibility of punitive damages against the aggressive driver, you may be entitled to a significant recovery.
Reckless driving versus aggressive driving in Georgia
Georgia distinguishes between the crimes of reckless and aggressive driving in its laws. Georgia statute §40-6-390 identifies reckless driving as any behavior that displays “reckless disregard” to other drivers. Aggressive driving, however, is identified in §40-6-397 and explains that these driving practices are conducted with the “intent to annoy, harass, molest, intimidate, injure, or obstruct another person.”
In short, the difference between reckless driving and aggressive driving in Georgia is intent. Aggressive drivers are trying to aggravate and possibly harm other drivers. Reckless drivers are merely careless. Accordingly, both are misdemeanors, but aggressive driving is classified as a “high and aggravated nature.” A driver faces increased fines and other penalties if convicted of aggressive driving in Georgia.
From a personal injury perspective, victims of both aggressive driving and reckless driving will be able to recover damages. Driving in either manner satisfies the negligence requirement of breaching the duty to drive in a reasonable manner. As long you can show that the driver’s behavior caused the accident and your injuries, you’ll likely be able to recover.
A copy of the police report is particularly important for reckless driving and aggressive driving lawsuits. A defendant may have taken a lesser plea than the actual crime they committed. In other words, a person charged with aggressive driving may plead guilty to reckless driving. Thus, the police report is more helpful in showing how at fault the other driver was.
The one caveat is to consider your level of fault. You must be less than 50% to blame for causing the accident. A consultation with a personal injury attorney will clarify your liability and potential to recover compensation.
Distracted drivers statistics in Georgia
Though distracted driving is technically a form of reckless driving, distracted driving is such a problem that Georgia has its own laws. The NHTSA reports that distracted drivers cause at least 6,000 fatalities each year and over 515,000 injuries annually. The NHTSA also states that an alarming 35% of drivers continue to text while driving and and 48% talk on a phone that’s not hands-free.
In Georgia, motor vehicle deaths have increased by a third and distracted driving, particularly texting while driving, is believed to be one of the main causes. Georgia car accident deaths are almost double the national average, causing state lawmakers to take action.
Young drivers are one of the biggest concerns as over 5,600 drivers between the ages of 15-25 were in distracted driving crashes in 2017 alone. Cell phone use while driving is the most publicized form of distracted driving and is responsible for 14% of fatal driving accidents in Georgia.
Texting while driving has become such a concern that Georgia passed the “Hand-Free Georgia Act” in the summer of 2018. This new law is considered confusing by many Georgians, but the goal is to eliminate any form of phone use that requires the use of a driver’s hands. With a few exceptions such as using your GPS or reporting an emergency, a driver can be cited if they are seen with a phone in their hands while driving. Only drivers in parked cars may have a phone actively in their hands. If you’re caught violating Georgia’s new cell phone law, you face a fine of $50 for a first offense, $100 for a second offense and $150 for a third offense
Other forms of distracted driving in Georgia
Other than using a cell phone, other behaviors can contribute to distracted driving. Actions that qualify as distracted driving that can make a driver liable in a personal injury lawsuit are:
- Eating or drinking
- Adjusting a music device
- Talking to and looking at other passengers
- Grooming such as applying makeup, shaving or simply looking in the mirror
- Reading a map or using a navigation system
- Watching a video or movie on the overhead movie screen or on the dashboard
Distracted drivers may not feel as though they’re being reckless. The problem, however, is that these listed behaviors interfere with a person’s vision, handling of their vehicle and concentration. A distracted driver simply isn’t able to drive in a manner that protects other motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians. As a result, a negligence claim for a distracted driver is handled in the same way as a reckless driver because a driver breaches his duty to protect the safety of everyone else sharing the road.
A seemingly harmless act such as changing a song may be enough to found liable for a car accident. Many drivers won’t admit if they were using their phone or doing any other distracting behavior while driving. In such cases, the insurance settlement may not be as high as the compensation received from a personal injury lawsuit. A personal injury attorney will conduct an investigation to collect evidence such as cell phone logs and traffic camera footage in order to fully demonstrate the driver’s degree of fault.
If you were injured by a reckless, aggressive or distracted driver, scheduling a consultation with a top Georgia attorney may be your best chance at recovering damages that compensate for all your injuries and bills. Read our article on how to select a personal injury attorney and make your appointment as soon as you’re well enough to do so.