CMV Law: Vehicle Lighting, Backing & Turning Left

Vehicle Lighting and Illumination Requirements

All vehicles are required to use headlights from a half-hour after sunset until a half-hour before sunrise, when it is raining, and “at any other time when there is not sufficient visibility to render clearly discernible persons and vehicles on the highway at a distance of 500 feet ahead.” Notice the unusual requirement that headlights be used until a half-hour before sunrise. It is difficult to understand why the General Assembly determined headlights are no longer required just before the sun rises, but so the law says. Formerly, the law required use of headlights until one hour after sunset until one hour before sunrise.  In any event, it has long been held that violation of the statute is negligence per se.

The FMCSRs provide additional requirements for headlights and many other lamps on CMVs and such regulations will certainly pre-empt conflicting state requirements which purport to impose less stringent requirements.
A vehicle with a projecting load four feet or more from the rear of the vehicle must display a red light at the tip of the load, visible “at least 500 feet to the sides and rear,” at the times set out in 40-8-20.  At all other times, the extreme rear end of such load must display a clearly visible red or orange flourescent flag not less than 18 inches square.
A stricter rule applies to vehicles transporting a load of logs, long pulpwood, poles, or posts, which must securely affix a flashing amber-colored LED light with a multidirectional type lens as close as practical to the end of any projection of four feet or more beyond the rear of the vehicle’s body or bed. When that cannot be accomplished to that the light is visible from the rear and both sides of the projecting load, multiple such lights must be used to provide the appropriate visibility. The light must operate anytime day or night when the vehicle is moving on the highway or parked alongside it or upon its shoulder. or when it is parked along the travelled portion of the road. Id. These vehicles must also display the red or orange 18” square flag.
It is worthwhile in a conspicuity case involving an oversize load to examine both state and federal law to determine if the vehicle is in compliance.


A driver may back their vehicle only when it can be done

  1. safely and
  2. without interfering with other traffic.


This statutory directive provides a basis for arguing that one who backs up even though not involved in a collision, but such that the backing causes an collision between other vehicles, is thereby liable for interfering with other traffic. Backing is also prohibited “upon any shoulder or roadway of any controlled-access highway.”

Vehicles Turning Left

Many CMV accidents occur when trucks attempt to make a left turn in front of oncoming traffic. This statute, which regulates left turns “within an intersection or into an alley, private road, or driveway,” requires the vehicle making the turn to yield to other approaching vehicles within the intersection or “so close thereto as to constitute an immediate hazard.” Note that this statute applies solely to intersections that are not controlled by traffic signals. When there is a signal, the applicable laws are O.C.G.A. §§ 40-6-20 (“Obediance to and required traffic control devices; use of traffic-control signal monitoring devices”) and 40-6-21 (“Meaning of traffic signal indications”). When a traffic signal at an intersection is inoperable, then regulation applies and may be properly charged to the jury. There can be an issue of whether the approaching motorist was himself to some degree at fault, and such may present a jury question. (“Even an operator of a vehicle having the right of way has a duty to maintain a proper lookout, to remain alert in observing approaching vehicles, and to exercise ordinary care in the control, speed and movements of his or her vehicle to avoid a collision if by ordinary diligence he or she could have seen that one was threatened or imminent.”).

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