In Georgia, there is a traffic offense known as “following too closely,” which encompasses a wide range of behaviors. As a traffic lawyer, I frequently come across cases related to this offense. The relevant law is outlined in O.C.G.A. § 40-6-49, which prohibits drivers from following other vehicles “more closely than is reasonable and prudent.” This takes into account factors such as vehicle speed, road conditions, and surrounding traffic.
Tailgating and Rear-End Collisions
One common way drivers can be charged with “following too closely” is when they are caught tailgating other vehicles. For instance, in the case of Totino v. State, an officer witnessed a driver closely trailing another vehicle, sometimes less than 5 feet away, while traveling at approximately 70 miles per hour. The law can also be applied if a driver is deemed responsible for rear-ending another vehicle, indicating that they were following too closely. In the case of Sevostiyanova v. State, the defendant was convicted after rear-ending another vehicle and leaving the scene.
Importantly, it’s not necessary to follow another driver for a prolonged period to be considered in violation of this law. Even a momentary lapse in judgment, such as failing to maintain a safe distance while approaching a car that slows down to turn, can lead to a “following too closely” charge.
Specific Scenarios Covered by the Law
The statute also addresses other specific scenarios. According to O.C.G.A. § 40-6-49(b), if a vehicle is towing another vehicle and following a motor truck, the driver should leave sufficient space for passing vehicles to enter between them safely. However, this rule applies only outside of business or residential districts. Additionally, O.C.G.A. § 40-6-49(c) states that vehicles moving together in a caravan should maintain enough space between them for non-caravan vehicles to pass without danger. Exceptions to this rule include funeral processions, parades, or other groups of vehicles under the supervision of law enforcement.
Understanding “Reasonable and Prudent”
Whether a driver’s actions are deemed “reasonable and prudent” is determined by a jury. This concept is not explicitly defined in the law, which means that juries must consider various factors surrounding the incident, including the vehicles’ speed, road conditions, and traffic flow.
It is important to note that the lead car, or the car in front, is not entirely exempt from responsibility. The Georgia Court of Appeals has ruled that the driver of the leading vehicle must also exercise caution and provide adequate warning to following vehicles when stopping, slowing down, or changing lanes. There may be instances where the lead driver is at fault, such as when they drive aggressively, recklessly, or engage in dangerous actions like “brake checking.”
Exceptions to the Law
There is one significant exception to the “following too closely” law, which applies in very specific cases. The law states that it does not apply to non-leading vehicles traveling in a coordinated platoon. A coordinated platoon refers to a group of motor vehicles in the same lane, utilizing vehicle-to-vehicle communication technology.
Penalties and Points
“Following too closely” is considered a misdemeanor offense in Georgia. While the maximum penalty is up to one year in jail or probation, most drivers charged with this offense are unlikely to face jail time. Instead, they will likely be fined. However, it is important to note that this offense carries three points on one’s driving record, according to the Georgia Department of Driver Services (DDS). Accumulating too many points within a short period can lead to license suspension, especially for younger drivers or those with prior driving violations. Additionally, traffic tickets can also result in increased insurance rates.
Relationship to Other Traffic Laws
Although “following too closely” may not appear to be a serious offense on its own, Georgia courts have established that it can serve as a basis for further investigation. In some cases, a stop for this offense may lead to the discovery of additional, more severe charges. For example, in the case of Pollack v. State, the Georgia Court of Appeals upheld an arrest for drug possession after the defendant was initially pulled over for following another car too closely.
Why You Need Legal Representation
While traffic offenses might seem minor, they can have significant consequences. They can impact your driving privileges, result in hefty fines, and even lead to increased insurance rates. If you have been charged with “following too closely,” it is crucial to seek legal representation. As an experienced Georgia Traffic Attorney, I can help you navigate the legal process and minimize the potential consequences of a conviction. Contact me today to discuss your case.
Understanding and obeying traffic laws, such as those pertaining to following vehicles too closely, is essential for maintaining road safety. By maintaining a safe distance from other vehicles, you can reduce the risk of accidents and ensure a smooth flow of traffic. Remember, it only takes a momentary lapse in judgment to find yourself facing charges. Stay vigilant and prioritize the well-being of yourself and others on the road.