Speeding, Driving Too Fast for Conditions, Impeding Traffic Flow, and Speed in Work Zones
The General Assembly has both codified specific speed limits and also enacted catch-all restrictions on speed that are based on prevailing conditions like weather, obstructions, traffic, and so forth.
All motorists are prohibited from driving “at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the conditions and having regard for the actual and potential hazards then existing.” The statute gives as examples the approach and crossing of an intersection or railroad crossing, the approaching and traversing of a curve or hill crest, travel upon a “narrow or winding roadway,” or when special hazards exist due to the presence of pedestrians, other traffic, or by reason of weather or highway conditions. Violation of the statute may constitute negligence per se. The fact a driver is traveling within the posted speed limit does not preclude liability under this code section.
This statute provides maximum speed limits within certain designated areas and harmonizes with other regulations by specifying that a lower speeds may nevertheless be required “when a special hazard exists.” On occasion these limits may be changed, and reference to the code when dealing with a particular case is important. A violation of a maximum speed limit that proximately results in an accident is negligence per se. The FMCSRs mandate a 60-day disqualification of a CMV driver convicted of driving 15 or more miles per hour above the speed limit, beginning with the second offense.
Statute prohibits operation of a motor vehicle “at such slow speed as to impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic, except when reduced speed is necessary for safe operation.” As the statute indicates, the persons sought to be protected are those following the slow-moving vehicle. Further, on roads with two or more lanes of travel in the same direction, a driver is prohibited from operating in the left lane at less than the maximum speed “once such person knows or should reasonably know” that he is being overtaken from the rear by a faster vehicle, except where the driver is preparing for a left turn. Thus, a driver who slows or comes to a stop in a roadway, even where traffic is alleged to be “bad,” may be negligent per se under this code section. Certainly this statute may be of real use in a trucking case, particularly on a limited-access highway. For example, a driver who is operating a malfunctioning vehicle incapable of traveling the minimum speed limit, such that an accident occurs, may be negligent because there is no exception under the statute for a driver whose vehicle malfunctions, reducing his speed, and is “just trying to make it to the next exit.” If a client has rear-ended a truck, consider whether this statute might place fault on the truck.
Code section provides for reduced speeds in defined work zones, which typically involve GDOT, a local government authority, or contractors performing work on behalf of those entities. The GDOT or other entity is empowered to create a zone of reduced speed, which must be designated with certain warning signs at the beginning and end of the zone. The presence of the signs alone does not require the reduced speed or impose the heightened penalties for speeding in the zone. Instead, the penalties are triggered by the signs and either
- the presence of work zone personnel or
- barriers, on-site work vehicles or shoulder or pavement drop offs that constitute a hazard to the traveling public. This significant requirement must be kept in mind when alleging a defendant driver violated a work zone speed reduction.