Turn and Stop Signals
The Georgia Rules of the Road require one turning, changing lanes, or stopping to give an “appropriate and timely signal” signal of their intention to do so. Likewise, a driver may only turn at an intersection or change lanes when properly positioned to do so, and when the movement can be accomplished with “reasonable safety.” Signals for turning may not be used to indicate “do pass” to following vehicles. Note that hand/arm signals or signal lights may be used, except when certain vehicle dimensions exceed a stated limit. It is therefore highly unlikely that hand signals by a CMV driver will comply with the Rules of the Road. Note that the code prohibits a vehicle from entering a center turning lane more than 300 feet from the point at which a left turn across one or more lanes of oncoming traffic is planned to occur.
These rules may have particular resonance for accidents involving CMVs. Lane change accidents are frequent in the trucking industry. In their defense, it may be said that, to a significant portion of the driving public, a CMV signal represents a “green flag” to pass the CMV before it can change lanes. Not surprisingly, the Court of Appeals has held that the purpose of the signal statutes is to make other drivers aware of lane changes and turns in order to prevent accidents. However, it has also been held that a left turn signal is not required of a vehicle in a left-turn-only lane. Violation of turning laws may constitute negligence per se.
Entering or Crossing Roadways
The seemingly simple act of pulling onto a road gives rise to many accidents involving a CMV. These vehicles accelerate much more slowly than the typical passenger vehicle and are typically far larger than even the biggest SUV. Not surprisingly, the Rules of the Road impose a duty on the operator of any vehicle entering a road not at an intersection to yield the right of way to oncoming traffic.
The question becomes whether the decision to pull onto the road was reasonable, as no set distance from oncoming traffic is (or could be) provided by the rule. Sight distance is typically at issue in the fact-intensive inquiry. The practitioner must keep in mind the above-average sight distance afforded to a CMV driver due to the CMV’s height above the road. Other factors to keep in mind are the rate of acceleration of a CMV (particularly one carrying a load), the speed of oncoming traffic (it is well established that it is difficult for a driver to estimate the speed of an oncoming vehicle, as compared to one passing in front of the driver), and road terrain or obstructions, i.e., hills, curves and vegetation.
To evaluate the strength of a claim predicated on this Rule of the Road, a view of the scene under conditions similar to those in existence on the day of the accident is essential. For example, did the accident take place in winter months, when vegetation that would block one’s view of oncoming traffic during the summer, was absent? There is case law that exculpates a driver of the duty to yield if the oncoming traffic is not visible. However, once the driver entering the road observes the oncoming traffic, the duty under the statute is triggered even if such traffic was not visible when the driver first entered the roadway.