Illegal Passing of an Emergency Vehicle
The illegal passing of an emergency vehicle happens several different ways in the State of Georgia. Many motor vehicle operators are trained to instinctively think that lights in their rearview mirror indicate that an individual is about to be pulled over by Georgia law enforcement. Many times, however, the lights actually belong to an emergency vehicle like an ambulance or fire trucks which has placed on its lights and possibly sirens in an effort to reach the vehicle’s destination as quickly in response to an emergency situation. In a number of cases involving emergency vehicles, motor vehicle drivers either fail to move over to the side of the road or try to beat the emergency vehicle through an intersection. This is known as the illegal passing of an emergency vehicleNot only do these types of motor vehicle drivers slow down the amount of time with which motor vehicle drivers can respond, these types of motor vehicle operators can also cause motor vehicle collisions to occur.
Applicable Georgia Law and the Illegal Passing of an Emergency Vehicle
The Federal Bureau of Investigation reports that traffic-related crashes claim more law enforcement lives than any other line of duty deaths.
There are several applicable laws in the state of Georgia concerning emergency vehicles that should be understood by motor vehicle drivers. Individuals should understand that for the purposes of these laws the definition of “emergency vehicle” includes any authorized vehicle belonging to federal, state, or local law emergency service agencies. The applicable laws include the following:
- Motor Vehicle Drivers Who Are Approached by an Emergency Vehicle. Motor vehicle drivers in the state of Georgia must follow certain rules when approached by a motor vehicle belonging to either local law enforcement, the state of Georgia, or the United States that are using audible and visual signals. The motor vehicle drivers must yield the right of way and shall immediately drive to a position parallel to and as close as possible to the right-hand edge of the road clear of any intersection. Motor vehicle operators must stop and remain in this type of position until an emergency vehicle has passed.
- How Motor Vehicle Drivers Must Respond When A Stationary Emergency Vehicle Displays Visual or Auditory Signals. This is known as the Georgia Move Over Law. Motor vehicle drivers should perform several steps in these types of situations. Drivers should make a lane change into a lane not adjacent to the emergency vehicle. If the motor vehicle driver cannot make such a lane change then the motor vehicle should reduce the speed of their vehicle to a reasonable speed, which must be less than the posted speed limit, and remain prepared to stop.
Motor vehicle drivers in Georgia should understand that these types of citations often arise when a law enforcement officer who is not responding to the emergency call notices a motor vehicle fail to yield to the emergency vehicle.
How to Drive Safely around Emergency Vehicles
All motor vehicle drivers in the state of Georgia should understand how to respond to emergency vehicles that are spotted on the road.
If an emergency vehicle approaches a motor vehicle operator from behind, the first thing that the driver should do is slow down and check on the surrounding traffic. Drivers must avoid the impulse to immediately pull to the side of the road because this response could result in an accident. Once the driver spots a clear path to stop, the driver should signal the stop and make the way to the stopping point. The driver should then wait until it is safe to drive before pulling back onto the road.
If a siren approaches an individual from the front, a motor vehicle operator should still pull over to the side of the road.
When following an emergency vehicle with flashing lights, individuals are expected to stay about three hundred to five hundred feet behind the vehicle. Motor vehicle operators should understand that it is always particularly dangerous tailgate an emergency vehicle.
The Consequences of the Illegal Passing of an Emergency Vehicle
Being charged for the first time with illegally passing an emergency can result in individuals being faced with a five hundred dollar fine which can total even more in terms of costs for individual who must also pay court costs. Being charged with illegally passing an emergency vehicle also results in numerous other types of adverse consequences.
Such a conviction could also result in three points being placed on an individual’s driver’s license. The accumulation of more than fifteen points on an individual’s driving record within twenty-four months can result in a license suspension. Individuals will also likely be faced with increased insurance rates. Receiving only one traffic citation in the state of Georgia can result in an individual’s motor vehicle insurance premium to increase by as much as twenty-two percent.
A citation for the illegal passing of an emergency vehicle can also be used by Georgia law enforcement as the reasonable grounds upon which to stop an individual to perform an investigative stop that could result in much more severe charges being raised as well.
Available Defenses to the Charge of the Illegal Passing of an Emergency Vehicle
There are a limited number of defenses that are available to individuals who wish to respond to charges of illegally passing an emergency vehicle.
Georgia law leaves it ambiguous regarding when individuals move into the adjacent lane of traffic. Due to this ambiguity, law enforcement officers in the state of Georgia are able to determine whether an individual has violated the law. A skilled attorney is often able to help an individual raise a defense that the individual was traveling at a reasonable speed.
There are other types of defenses that will likely not succeed in a Georgia court of law. Individuals are unable to argue that they did not see the flashing lights of an emergency. It should be noticed that if an individual can somehow demonstrate that the emergency vehicle was not flashing its lights that a strong defense can likely be raised.
Obtain the Assistance of a Knowledgeable Traffic Citation Attorney
If you have received a citation for illegally passing a motor vehicle, it is a wise idea to contact the seasoned legal counsel at Yeargan, Barber & Kert today. Citations for illegally passing an emergency vehicle can be particularly expensive and create various difficulties if not sufficiently addressed. Our law firm has the experience and talent to significantly help your case.