Being involved in a car accident is not a crime in and of itself. However, sometimes behaviors leading to the accident come with criminal penalties. This blog post will cover some of the criminal charges that can result from a traffic accident in Georgia.
According to a 2018 report by the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration (NHTSA), driver error causes roughly 94% of car accidents. Notably, NHTSA found that distracted driving, driving too fast for conditions, following too closely, failing to yield, and driving under the influence are all frequent causes of accidents. In Georgia, all of these are criminal offenses.
Most frequently, “distracted driving” cases involve drivers using cell phones behind the wheel. In 2018, Georgia passed a “Hands-Free” law. This law forbids drivers from holding a cell phone while driving a car. Under the “Hands-Free” law, drivers cannot talk on the phone, text, or watch videos while driving.
The law also has a “catch-all” provision that forbids drivers from taking any actions that distract them from the safe operation of their vehicles. Therefore, this law covers more than just texting while driving. For example, a person could receive a ticket under this law for putting on makeup while driving.
There are a few exceptions to the distracted driving law and several defenses. Read my full article on the Hands-Free law here.
Driving Too Fast For Conditions
Georgia law requires drivers to consider the road and traffic conditions when deciding how fast they can safely drive. This is the “Basic Rules/Too Fast for Conditions” law.
Importantly, you can receive a ticket for driving too fast for conditions, even if you are driving under the speed limit. For example, heavy rain decreases visibility and increases the chances of standing water on the road. These conditions could lead to skidding, hydroplaning, and a possible accident. Therefore, it would be reasonable to slow down and even travel under the speed limit.
I have handled numerous cases of Too Fast for Conditions, many of which have led to accidents. To read my full article about Too Fast For Conditions, click here.
Following Too Closely
Following Too Closely is one of the most common charges I see in my practice. The law forbids drivers from following other vehicles more closely than is safe under the circumstances. Drivers must consider the speed of other cars, traffic, and road conditions.
Following Too Closely is often used to charge drivers involved in fender-benders. The assumption here is that if you were close enough to rear-end another driver, you were likely following them too closely. Of course, this isn’t always true (brake-checking is something that unfortunately happens, after all). There are defenses to this charge, so if you have received a ticket for Following Too Closely, you should speak to an attorney. Click here to read my full article on Following Too Closely, which covers penalties and other defenses.
Failure to Yield
When you are on the road with other cars, someone always has the “right of way.” Knowing who has the right of way is a crucial part of driving. Sometimes, miscalculations about the right of way can lead to tickets for Failure to Yield to Right of Way. According to NHTSA and my own experience, they also commonly lead to accidents.
Georgia has numerous code sections that deal with the right of way. These sections instruct drivers on who has the right of way in various specific circumstances. Click here to learn more about right of way, the offense of Failure to Yield, and possible consequences for a conviction.
Driving Under the Influence
In my practice, I often see DUI charges result from traffic accidents. These include both alcohol and drug DUI cases. The consequences of a DUI charge depend on whether a person has prior DUI convictions. Jail sentences are possible, even after a first lifetime DUI. This will depend on the jurisdiction, the judge, the severity of the case, and numerous other factors. DUI is a complex area of law, and if you are charged with DUI after an accident, you should speak to an attorney as soon as possible. Click here to learn more about DUI offenses, consequences, and possible defenses to a DUI charge.
If a severe injury or death results from a DUI-related accident, this can lead to more serious charges. These include Serious Injury by Vehicle or Vehicular Homicide.
Other Factors to Consider in Accident Cases
As detailed above, numerous criminal charges can result from a car accident. However, if someone is injured in the accident, you could also be facing a civil lawsuit. It’s important to note that beating the criminal charges in criminal court does not necessarily mean you will prevail in civil court. This is because the rules of evidence and the burden of proof are different in civil court.
Keep in mind, this blog post does not contain a complete list of charges that can result from a traffic accident in Georgia. If you have been in a traffic accident and fear that you may be facing criminal charges, you should speak to a Georgia Traffic Attorney. You should not talk to the police before consulting with a lawyer.