CMV Law: Following Too Closely & Passing

Following Too Closely

This code section prohibits following another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent having due regard for the speed of such vehicles and the traffic upon and the condition of the highway. Subsection (b) is important in the context of CMVs. It requires a vehicle towing another vehicle upon a roadway outside a business or residential district, and which is following another vehicle, to leave enough space to permit an “overtaking” vehicle to enter and occupy the space in between. The same rule is applied to vehicles traveling in a “caravan” or motorcade, except for funeral processions and vehicles under the supervision of law enforcement. A CMV driver’s second conviction for following too closely in a three year period will result in a 60 day disqualification from the operation of a CMV. Thus, this Rule of the Road is important is assessing a motor carrier’s liability, should it continue to allow a driver with more than one conviction over that time period to drive a CMV.
Under Georgia law, a guilty plea for this or any moving violation of state law, if left unrebutted by the defendant, is a conclusive admission of guilt that can be used in a civil case. To rebut the presumption that he or she was following too closely, the driver must present sufficient competent evidence that they were following at a reasonable and prudent distance and were traveling at a speed that was reasonable and prudent given the traffic ahead, the speed of the traffic, and the condition of the highway.  Mere statements by the driver that the accident “happened so fast,” that he was not following too closely, and that he did not feel he was guilty of violating the statute are insufficient proof to rebut the admission created by his guilty plea.Significantly, if a defendant fails to rebut the presumed admission of negligence per se created by a guilty plea and the plaintiff has otherwise proven that the violation was a proximate cause of the collision and injury, it is error for the trial court to deny a plaintiff’s motion for directed verdict on the issue of the defendant’s negligence.

Passing

This series of statutes addreses the duty incumbent on one overtaking and passing a leading vehicle and the various scenarios which such a maneuver may take place.
Statute provides that one overtaking another vehicle shall pass to the left at a safe distance and shall not return to the right side until safely clear of the overtaken vehicle. The statute also creates a duty on the part of the driver of the overtaken vehicle to give way to the right in favor of the overtaking vehicle, except when passing on the right is permitted, and not to speed up until completely passed.

Statute specifies that passing on the right is permitted only when the lead vehicle is making or about to make a left turn, or when the road has two or more lanes in the direction being traveled by the overtaking vehicle. The statute also requires such maneuver only be attempted “under conditions permitting such movement in safety” and prohibits passing on the right when it would require the overtaking vehicle to leave the roadway to complete the pass.

This statute addresses passing on the left and prohibits it unless the left side is “clearly visible and 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 any event, a vehicle is required to return to the right lane “as soon as practicable” and, in the event the passing movement requires the driver to move into the lane reserved for oncoming traffic (i.e., a pass on a two-lane road divided by a broken yellow line) “before coming within 200 feet of any approaching vehicle.” It is worth keeping in mind both that the sight distance of a CMV may be greater than that of a passenger vehicle due to the height of the driver’s line of sight, and that a CMV generally accelerates more slowly that passenger vehicles, particularly on a grade.

Statute prohibits passing on the left side of a roadway designed and authorized for traffic traveling in opposite directions when:

  1. the driver is approaching a hill or curve “where the driver’s view is obstructed within such distance as to create a hazard in the event another vehicle might approach from the opposite direction,”
  2. when traversing any intersection with a solid stripe on the right of a combination (or “zipper”) stripe along the center or lane line or by a solid double yellow line,
  3. when traversing a railroad grade crossing, or
  4. when the driver’s view is obstructed upon approaching within 100 feet of a bridge, viaduct, or tunnel. This rule is excepted on one-way streets, for drivers turning left into or out of alleys, private roads or driveways, or when there is an obstruction on the right side of the roadway as described in regulation. Arguably, a driver who can move to the left in compliance with this statute to avoid an accident, but fails to do so, is negligent.

Both the DOT and “local authorities” can designate portions of a road where passing on the left would be “especially hazardous” and mark the roadway as a no-passing zone. Where marked as described, no passing is permitted at any time and a vehicle may operate to the left only to pass an obstruction or make a left turn “into or from an alley, private road, or driveway.” Note that the exception does not include a U-turn.

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