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The Rules of the Road for Trucks and Buses
Hello, and welcome back to our ongoing blog series on Georgia traffic statutes and negligence per se! If you’re just joining us, negligence per se is the legal concept that any action that breaks a rule intended to protect the public safety is inherently negligent. Therefore, anyone who hurts another person by breaking a safety rule is automatically liable for the damages.
This idea can be especially helpful for determining liability in cases of traffic accidents, because all the rules of the road are, by their nature, safety rules. Knowing what those rules are can make negligent rule-breaking easy to spot.
Last week, we talked about statute 40-6-50, which explains how the emergency lanes on highways may be used. This week, we’ll discuss 40-6-52 and 40-6-53, which deal with what lanes trucks and buses are allowed to use.
What Qualifies as a Truck?
Statute 40-6-52 is all about trucks with more than six wheels, but it uses the term “truck” loosely. For the purpose of determining which lanes a vehicle may use, any vehicle with more than six wheels qualifies as a “truck,” unless it’s a bus or a motorcoach.
§40-6-52. Unlawful for trucks with more than six wheels to operate in certain lanes
(a) As used in this Code section, the term “truck” means any vehicle equipped with more than six wheels, except buses and motorcoaches.
The rules for buses and motorcoaches are almost identical, but they have their own statute, which we’ll get to in a minute. In the meantime, anything else that uses six wheels is covered by statute 40-6-52, from cement mixers to parade floats.
Trucks Must Keep Right… Mostly
If a road has three or more lanes moving in the same direction, trucks are allowed to use both of the right two lanes. On roads with only two lanes moving in the same direction, trucks are required to keep to the right one, unless they have a specific reason for moving to the left. Statute 40-6-52 is fairly specific about what constitutes a valid reason.
(b) On roads, streets, or highways with three or more lanes allowing for movement in the same direction, it shall be unlawful for any truck to operate in any lanes other than the two most right-hand lanes, except when the truck is preparing for a left turn or as otherwise provided by subsection (d) of this Code section.
(c) On roads, streets, or highways with two lanes allowing for movement in the same direction, it shall be unlawful for any truck to operate in the left-hand lane, except when the truck is actually overtaking and passing another vehicle, preparing for a left turn, or as otherwise provided by subsection (d) of this Code section.
Passing another vehicle counts as a reason when there are only two available lanes, but if there are three or more, trucks must keep their passing maneuvers within the rightmost two. Regardless of the number of lanes, any truck preparing to make a legal left turn has the right to use the left lane to do so.
The Department of Transportation May Designate Specific Lanes for Trucks
To streamline traffic on major interstate highways with four or more lanes moving in the same direction, the Department of Transportation will sometimes designate and mark specific truck lanes. Where this is the case, it’s illegal for trucks to leave these marked lanes. In other areas, there may be signs forbidding trucks from entering certain lanes.
(d) On interstate highways with four or more lanes allowing for movement in the same direction, the Department of Transportation may designate specific lanes that either prohibit or allow trucks. Where truck usage has been so designated and indicated as such by signs erected by the Department of Transportation, it shall be unlawful for any truck to operate in any lanes other than as designated.
As with all traffic control devices, signs marking truck lanes or truck-free lanes override all other rules, except for the instructions of on-site police officers.
What About Buses?
Buses and coaches (which are basically long-distance buses) may be excluded from statute 40-6-52, but that doesn’t mean they can use whatever lanes they like. Instead, they’re subject to statute 40-6-53.
§40-6-53. Buses or motorcoaches to operate in specified lanes
(a) On roads, streets, or highways with three or more lanes allowing for movement in the same direction, it shall be unlawful for any bus or motorcoach to operate in any lanes other than the two most right-hand lanes, except when the bus or motorcoach is preparing for a left turn, is moving to or from an HOV lane, or as otherwise provided by subsection (c) of this Code section.
(b) On roads, streets, or highways with two lanes allowing for movement in the same direction, it shall be unlawful for any bus or motorcoach to operate in the left-hand lane, except when the bus or motorcoach is actually overtaking and passing another vehicle, preparing for a left turn, or as otherwise provided by subsection (c) of this Code section.
(c) On interstate highways with four or more lanes allowing for movement in the same direction, the Department of Transportation may designate specific lanes that either prohibit or allow buses or motorcoaches. Where such usage has been so designated and indicated by signs erected by the Department of Transportation, it shall be unlawful for any bus or motorcoach to operate in any lanes other than those designated for its use except when moving to or from an HOV lane.
As you can see, the text of 40-6-53 is almost identical to 40-6-52. Buses must follow all the same rules and even use the same designated truck lanes as other vehicles with more than six wheels, but with one key exception. Unlike trucks, buses are allowed to use high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes. Because HOV lanes are typically located on the left, buses are allowed to cross the other lanes to get to them, but they’re not allowed to linger in the middle of the roadway.
(d) When moving to or from an HOV lane, a bus or motorcoach shall move to the proper lanes of travel expeditiously and in the shortest distance possible under the circumstances.
That said, bus drivers must still take the same care as any other driver when making these quick lane changes, to make sure the coast is clear.
What Damages Can You Recover If a Truck or Bus Uses the Wrong Lane?
A driver of a truck or bus who causes an accident by using the wrong lane is liable under the concept of negligence per se, but it’s important to remember that if other drivers also contributed to the accident by breaking laws or taking less than adequate care, those drivers will share a percentage of the responsibility.
For example, the blind spots on large trucks make changing lanes to the right more difficult to pull off safely, which is part of why trucks are relegated to the right side of the road. So, if a truck driver tries to save time by traveling in the left lane and then hits a smaller, law-abiding vehicle while trying to move over to reach an exit ramp, that truck driver would be solely liable under negligence per se.
On the other hand, if a truck driver is using the wrong lane and causing a delay in traffic, and if a frustrated driver behind the truck then gets into an accident by trying to zoom around it too quickly without checking that each lane change is safe, the impatient driver would also share liability.
Bottom line, if a truck or bus driving in the wrong lane causes an accident that injures you, and you’re found to be less than 50% responsible for that accident yourself, you’ll be entitled to a settlement, though the larger your share of responsibility, the smaller that settlement has the potential to be. Any settlement you are entitled to will be divided into “special” and “general” damages.
“Special” Damages Cover Medical, Repair, and Other Tangible Expenses
The purpose of a personal injury settlement is to compensate you for what you’ve lost and put your life back the way it was, or as close as possible in the real world. The first, simplest step in doing this is to reimburse any financial losses the accident has caused or will cause you. Medical expenses are the most common reason people pursue personal injury cases. Without help, these bills can easily add up to a life-ruining sum, and a fair settlement can stop that from happening. There are other financial losses too, like your totaled vehicle or lost time at work, that special damages can cover. To claim special damages, you’ll need a detailed record of the expenses you’ve incurred or expect to incur, and you’ll need to prove that those expenses were directly or proximately caused by the at-fault driver’s actions. Don’t panic; we’ll walk you through how this works. To learn more about how we help clients prove direct or proximate cause, click here.
“General” Damages Help Make Up for Less Obvious Losses
Erasing the financial burden of a traffic accident goes a long way toward making things right, but in most cases, it’s not far enough. After all, if someone offered to pay for all your related expenses if you let them hit you with their car, you wouldn’t do it, would you? If you did, you’d end up worse off than you started out. Even with no impact on your finances, you’d still be going through all the pain and trouble of recovery, and you might miss out on things you were looking forward to, or even end up with permanent disabilities. It’s these extra, non-financial effects an accident has on a life that general damages are meant to compensate for. Of course, no amount of money is ever exactly equivalent to the value of what accident survivors lose, so there’s lots of room for argument over the amounts of general damages. That’s part of why it’s so important to have a good lawyer to speak on your behalf and help the judge and jury understand what’s happened to you, in ways you might not feel comfortable explaining for yourself.
What If the Truck or Bus Driver Caused a Fatality?
If the accident was fatal, your case changes from being a personal injury suit to a wrongful death suit. The Wetherington Law Firm helps families facing these devastating kinds of personal losses as well, but these suits come with different rules you’ll need to be aware of. Click here to learn more about wrongful death.
Why Do I Need a Lawyer?
Arguing the value of pain, psychological trauma, and disability is just one of the tricky elements of a personal injury case that the Wetherington Law Firm’s passionate experts excel at. Every case is unique, every case has its complications, but over the course of our careers, we’ve just about seen it all. We anticipate problems before they come up, and we can guide you around every trap and pitfall to make sure you get the compensation you deserve. It’s an intricate process that no one should have to try to improvise their way through alone, especially when their lifelong well-being hangs in the balance. That’s why we’ve made sure you don’t have to.
How to Hire the Best Car Wreck Lawyers in Atlanta
The Wetherington Law Firm works on a contingency basis, which means you don’t owe us a cent until your settlement comes through. You’ll never end up with less than you started with, and you can generally expect to walk away with far more than you would going it alone. It’s deeply important to us that everyone have access to qualified legal counsel, regardless of their financial situation, and we don’t believe anyone should be able to win in court simply by outspending their opponent. Once we decide to take your case, we’re there for you from beginning to end, no matter how long it takes, with absolutely no upfront fees.
To talk to a professional about the details of your specific situation, just give us a call at 404-888-4444. We’re standing by, ready to offer you a free consultation.
Is Your Case About More than One Tragic Accident?
We talk to a lot of clients who’ve fallen victim to accidents that aren’t isolated. Maybe you’ve done some digging and discovered you’re the third Georgia resident this year to be injured by a bus driving in the middle lanes, or trucks trying to merge from too far to the left. If you’re looking for a lawyer to do more than just win you compensation, someone who’ll help you change the world for the better, you’ve come to the right place. We’ll research patterns, look into company and city policies, and push for real solutions that will protect future victims, even if it makes your case more time-consuming or less profitable. We’re passionate about litigation as a tool for good, and we love working with clients who feel the same way. To learn more about how your case can help others, give us a call today!