Unlawful Tampering With a Traffic Control Device in Georgia
When one person’s actions cause harm to another person, proving that those actions qualify as negligent is an essential step in securing a settlement to cover the damages. In this blog series on civil liability in traffic accidents, we’ve been discussing how individual traffic laws can help with establishing negligence in court. Generally, proving negligence means proving that someone has acted in a way a reasonable person wouldn’t, due to the obvious likelihood of that action causing harm.
If the actions in question violate a law intended to protect the public, however, those actions are automatically considered negligent, eliminating the need to argue over reasonableness. This principle is called negligence per se.
Last week, we went over the Spencer Pass Law, which deals with motorists’ obligations to yield to certain service vehicles. This week, we’ll discuss statutes OCGA 40-6-17, OCGA 40-6-25, OCGA 40-6-26, and OCGA 40-6-396, which forbid tampering with traffic control devices.
What Qualifies as a Traffic Control Device?
Traffic control devices include traffic lights, railroad warning lights, traffic signs, and any other fixtures on public roads that are used by local authorities to manage a safe, orderly flow of traffic. Interfering with these devices is specifically forbidden by OCGA 40-6-26.
OCGA § 40-6-26. Interference with official traffic-control devices or railroad signs or signals
(a) No person shall, without lawful authority, attempt to or in fact alter, deface, injure, knock down, or remove any official traffic-control device or any railroad sign or signal or any inscription, shield, or insignia thereon or any other part thereof.
This fairly general rule is further expanded upon in other statutes, which we’ll get to in a moment.
What Qualifies as Tampering?
Tampering comes in many forms, both crude and sophisticated. One of the more high-tech methods involves the use of what’s known as a “traffic-control device preemption emitter.” These devices transmit signals that disrupt the usual timing sequences of traffic lights, usually to give the user exclusively green lights. Use or ownership of preemption emitters by anyone other than law enforcement and emergency services is illegal under OCGA 40-6-17.
OCGA § 40-6-17. Traffic-control device preemption emitter
(a) As used in this Code section, the term “traffic-control device preemption emitter” means a mobile infrared transmitter or any other similar device which transmits an infrared beam, radio wave, or other signal used for the purpose of changing, altering, disabling, or disrupting the normal signal sequence of a traffic-control device.
(b) It shall be unlawful for any person other than law enforcement, fire department, or emergency personnel to use, possess with the ability to use, sell, or purchase a traffic-control device preemption emitter.
(c) Any person who violates subsection (b) of this Code section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.
Lower tech traffic control devices, like signposts, tend to be vulnerable to lower tech forms of tampering, such as theft or defacement. In addition to the general law against tampering with traffic control devices, it’s also specifically illegal under OCGA 40-6-25 to install fake, unauthorized lights or signs, or to add any form of advertising to existing traffic control devices.
OCGA § 40-6-25. Display of unauthorized signs, signals or markings
(a) No person shall place, maintain, or display upon or in view of any highway any sign, signal, marking, or device which purports to be or is an imitation of or resembles an official traffic-control device or railroad sign or signal or which attempts to direct the movement of traffic or which hides from view or interferes with the effectiveness of an official traffic-control device or any railroad sign or signal.
(b) No person shall maintain or place nor shall any public authority permit upon any highway any traffic sign or signal bearing thereon any commercial advertising.
In other words, interfering with people’s ability to read and obey official signs is a serious offense, as well as a serious safety hazard. The same goes for adding stop signs, speed bumps, or crosswalks of your own, to suit your own convenience.
Are Privately Made or Purchased Signs Ever Okay?
In short, yes, but only on privately owned property, and only if they can’t easily be mistaken for official road signs, as specified in OCGA 40-6-25.
(c) This Code section shall not be deemed to prohibit the erection upon private property adjacent to highways of signs giving useful directional information and of a type that cannot be mistaken for official signs.
Want to hang a “Beware of Dog” or “Children Present” sign on your gate? That’s fine. Want to hang a speed limit sign for tenants in the parking area of your building? That’s okay, but make sure cars passing on the street won’t see it and become confused. Trying to gain extra attention for your yard sale with an eight-sided red sign out on the curb that reads “STOP (for yard sale)”? Better rethink your strategy.
What Happens If Someone Gets Hurt?
Ideally, these kinds of disruptions to lawful traffic patterns should be taken care of before they can cause damage. Local authorities are explicitly granted the power to do this under OCGA 40-6-25.
(d) Every such prohibited sign, signal, or marking is declared to be a public nuisance, and the authority having jurisdiction over the highway is empowered to remove it or cause it to be removed without notice.
Sometimes, however, false or sabotaged traffic control devices can slip by unnoticed until someone gets seriously injured. Under OCGA 40-6-396, a person who accidentally causes a serious injury by interfering with a traffic control device can expect to spend up to five years in prison. If there’s a death, that number goes up to 15.
OCGA § 40-6-396. Homicide or serious injury by interference with traffic-control device or railroad sign or signal
(a) Any person who, without malice aforethought, causes the death of another person through the violation of subsection (a) of Code Section 40-6-26 commits the offense of homicide by interference with an official traffic-control device or railroad sign or signal and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than two nor more than 15 years.
(b) Any person who, without malice aforethought, causes bodily harm to another by depriving such other person of a member of his or her body, by rendering a member of his or her body useless, by seriously disfiguring his or her body or a member thereof, or by causing organic brain damage which renders the body or any member thereof useless through the violation of subsection (a) of Code Section 40-6-26 commits the offense of serious injury by interference with an official traffic-control device or railroad sign or signal and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than one nor more than five years.
Tampering with traffic isn’t just a criminal offense, however. If one person causes harm to another by tampering with traffic control devices, that person is also civilly liable for the damages under the concept of negligence per se.
What Damages Can You Recover If Someone Tampers with Traffic Control Devices?
Fake or sabotaged traffic control devices can easily lead to accidents and injuries. One missing stop sign can cause repeated T-bone collisions. Traffic lights changing out of sequence can force unexpected breaking, leading to fender-benders and whiplash. Even without a collision, misleading road signs can cause motorists to become lost or plan incorrectly, which can be deadly on long, unpopulated stretches of road. If you’ve been harmed by this kind of negligent interference, you have the right to compensation, which will take the form of “special” damages, “general” damages, or both.
“Special” Damages Cover Financial Costs
Getting back on your feet after an accident costs money, in the form of doctor’s bills, vehicle repairs, lost productivity at work, and miscellaneous other expenses. That’s what special damages are for, to cover the quantifiable expenses you’ve incurred as a result of someone else’s negligence. To recover in this way, you’ll need to provide evidence of your financial losses, and prove that those losses were directly or proximately caused by the traffic tampering in question. To learn more about proving direct or proximate cause, click here.
“General” Damages Cover the Losses that Can’t Be Measured
If you were to recover every penny you’ll ever have to spend because of your accident, and no more, it probably wouldn’t be enough to make you feel like you’d truly broken even. That’s what general damages are for, to help compensate for the pain and stress of the experience you’ve been through. It’s also meant to pay for the things that can’t be replaced, like any sentimental possessions destroyed in the crash, or that great day you had planned before the accident happened. These kinds of losses are obviously subjective, so it’s especially important to have a skilled lawyer to argue the dollar values for you.
What If Someone Died in the Accident?
While there’s no true way of compensating for the loss of a human life, the law does recognize how exceptionally serious fatal accidents are, and different rules apply to these cases. You can sue for damage to your own body and well-being under personal injury law, but if you’ve lost a loved one, that loss will fall under the category of wrongful death. You can learn more about wrongful death cases here.
Why Do I Need a Lawyer?
Even when the law is on your side, navigating the litigation process is stressful and complicated. To get the best possible settlement, you’ll need an expert on your side who can guide you through each step, explain the law and how it applies to your case, help you avoid traps set by insurance companies and defense attorneys, and argue passionately on your behalf.
How to Hire the Best Car Wreck Lawyers in Atlanta
You may think you can’t afford a lawyer, or that you can save money by going solo, but with the Wetherington Law Firm, you don’t have to worry about how to cover your legal expenses. We work solely on a contingency basis, which means we don’t accept payment until and unless we win. You only pay a portion of the compensation we secure for you, and given the difference between typical settlements for plaintiffs with and without skilled counsel, we think you’ll agree it’s well worth it.
To get started, just reach out by filling out the form on the right or by phone at 404-888-4444 for a free consultation.
You Can Make a Difference for Others by Working with the Wetherington Law Firm
Many of our clients want more than a cash settlement. They want to see solutions to the underlying problems that led to their injuries. The use of preemption emitters to tamper with traffic lights, for example, isn’t just the isolated act of an individual. It requires the production and illegal sale of the emitter, meaning that any related accidents aren’t just the result of the user’s impatience, but also the seller’s greed. If you believe there’s more to your case than one negligent act and one accident, we’re happy to help you pursue real change. To learn more about how your case can make a difference in the lives of others, reach out and talk to Wetherington Law Firm attorney today!
In Georgia, Tampering With a Traffic Control Device Can Result in Civil Liability if it Causes a Car Wreck? ›
Tampering with traffic isn't just a criminal offense, however. If one person causes harm to another by tampering with traffic control devices, that person is also civilly liable for the damages under the concept of negligence per se.What is the fine for failing to obey traffic control devices in Georgia? ›
Points on your license, up to a $1,000 fine, and higher insurance premiums are all standard consequences associated with failing to obey a traffic control device in Georgia.What does obedience to traffic control devices mean? ›
414.01 OBEDIENCE TO TRAFFIC CONTROL DEVICES. (a) (1) No pedestrian or driver of a vehicle shall disobey the instructions of any traffic- control device placed in accordance with the provisions of this Traffic Code, unless at the time otherwise directed by a police officer.What is Section 40-6-20 in Georgia? ›
§ 40-6-20, is one of the most common traffic infractions in Georgia. In general, the law states that the “driver of any vehicle shall obey the instructions of an official traffic-control device, unless otherwise directed by a police officer.” In most cases, this charge results from a person running a red light.What behaviors can lead to failing to obey a traffic control device? ›
Ignoring hazard lights. Ignoring portable or temporary signs. Railroad crossing infractions. Making an illegal U-turn.What can happen to a driver who violates Georgia traffic laws? ›
The penalties for a first offense can include a fine of up to $500 and points on your driving record, potentially leading to increased insurance premiums. For repeat offenders, the consequences can be even more severe, including higher fines, more points on your driving record, and license suspension in some cases.Is a traffic violation a crime in Georgia? ›
Traffic law violations are the most common criminal offenses in Georgia. And yes, traffic violations in Georgia are considered crimes. Traffic violations are most likely misdemeanors in the state of Georgia, which carries penalties of $1,000 fine and 12 months in jail.Which of the following is an example of a traffic control device? ›
Road markings and road construction
They include stop lines, lane markers, turn lane arrows, and more.
Traffic Control Devices include street signs, traffic signals, and road markings.What would be an example of a traffic control device? ›
Signs, signals, pavement markings, cones, barricades and warning lights are designed with dedicat- ed colors, shapes and sizes based on the different functions they provide. They regulate, guide and warn vehicle and pedestrian traffic about road conditions.
(2) Except when overtaking and passing on the right is permitted, the driver of an overtaken vehicle shall give way to the right in favor of the overtaking vehicle and shall not increase the speed of his vehicle until completely passed by the overtaking vehicle.What is a violation of Code Section 40 6 181 in Georgia? ›
§ 40-6-181) states that nobody can drive a vehicle at speeds above the maximum speed limit. The best way to determine this speed limit is to look for posted signs.What is GA traffic law 40 6 49? ›
Following too closely. (a) The driver of a motor vehicle shall not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of such vehicles and the traffic upon and the condition of the highway.What are the three main traffic control devices? ›
Traffic Control Devices include street signs, traffic signals, and road markings. These signs, signals, and stripes guide drivers in navigation and control of their vehicles.What is the top 10 most common unsafe driving violations? ›
- Following too closely.
- Improper lane changes.
- Reckless driving.
- Improper turns.
- Failure to yield to right of way.
- Railroad grade crossing violations.
- Failure to obey a traffic control device.
- Speeding. Driving faster than the posted speed limit is a violation of the law. ...
- Driving Under the Influence. ...
- Reckless Driving. ...
- Distracted Driving. ...
- Running a Red Light.
Most traffic tickets you get are considered “infractions” which means you cannot go to jail for these violations. A traffic infraction is considered a minor offense and you cannot be punished with jail for a traffic infraction or placed on court probation. Typically, the punishment for an infraction is a court fine.When a driver violates a traffic law who decides whether they are guilty or innocent of these charges? ›
|Who decides whether drivers charged with violating traffic laws are guilty or innocent?||courts|
|When a driver foresees where points of conflict can develop in a driving situation, which step of the IPDE Process is used?||predict|
No, Georgia does not report speeding tickets to other states officially.Is a traffic violation a misdemeanor in GA? ›
All moving violations in Georgia are considered criminal misdemeanors, which means if you're found guilty, it could be reflected on your criminal record. (Additionally, if you just pay the fine, you're admitting guilt.)
These include hit and run, killing someone with your vehicle, street racing, DUI, driving without registration, without insurance, or with a suspended license.Which is considered a violation? ›
Violation is often used to describe an action that disregards an agreement or a basic right, such as a violation of a global climate treaty or a human rights violation.What is the most commonly used traffic control device? ›
Traffic safety cones are the most common traffic control device that you will see near construction zones or other areas of immediate danger.
Traffic control devices include signal lights, traffic signs, and pavement markings.Which of these are temporary traffic control devices? ›
- Category 1 devices include traffic cones, plastic traffic drums, portable delineators, and channelizers.
- Category 2 devices include barricades and portable sign supports.
Arterial intersection control (open network) - provides progressive traffic flow along the arterial. This is accomplished by coordination of the traffic signals. Closed network control - coordinates a group of adjacent signalized intersections.Who do traffic control devices affect? ›
Traffic control devices are markers, signs and signal devices used to inform, guide and control traffic, including pedestrians, motor vehicle drivers and bicyclists.What are the four main components of the traffic control system? ›
There are four basic elements in a computerized traffic control system: computer(s), communications devices, traffic signals and associated equipment, and detectors for sensing vehicles.What are the characteristics of traffic control devices? ›
To be effective, a traffic control device should meet five basic requirements: (1) fulfill a need, (2) command attention, (3) convey a clear, simple meaning, (4) command respect from road users, and (5) give adequate time for proper response.How do traffic control devices communicate? ›
Traffic control devices communicate their message in several ways, by color, shape, words, symbols and placement to provide information. Through their messages, they direct drivers' actions and provide a framework of uniform guidance.
The traffic lights control system which we discussed earlier is an example of an open loop control system.What is GA traffic law 40 6 73? ›
Entering or Crossing Roadway. The driver of a vehicle about to enter or cross a roadway from any place other than another roadway shall yield the right of way to all vehicles approaching on the roadway to be entered or crossed.Can you get a ticket from a traffic camera in Georgia? ›
Georgia is one of the many states that allow red light cameras. However, the good news is that tickets from these cameras are not considered moving violations and do not affect your insurance rates. They still carry a fine up to $70. The $70 fine is sent to the owner of the car.What is traffic law 40 2 20 in Georgia? ›
Any person who fails to register a new or used motor vehicle as required in subsection (a) of this Code section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by a fine not exceeding $100.00.What is traffic law 40 6 120 in Georgia? ›
§ 40-6-120 (a)(2) informs drivers of the proper methods of turning left at intersections in Georgia. Under this statute, the driver of a vehicle intending to turn left shall approach the turn in the extreme left-hand lane lawfully available to traffic moving in the direction of travel of the turning vehicle.What is GA traffic law 40 6 71? ›
The driver of a vehicle intending to turn to the left within an intersection or into an alley, private road, or driveway shall yield the right of way to any vehicle approaching from the opposite direction which is within the intersection or so close thereto as to constitute an immediate hazard.What is statute 40 6 74 in Georgia? ›
§§ 40-6-6 and40-6-74 mandate that a driver has a duty to yield the right of way to an authorized law enforcement vehicle when the law enforcement vehicle approaches making use of an audible signal and visual signal under normal atmospheric conditions from a distance of 500 feet to the front of such vehicle, and ...What is Georgia Traffic Law 40 6 397? ›
Section 40-6-397 - Aggressive driving (a) A person commits the offense of aggressive driving when he or she operates any motor vehicle with the intent to annoy, harass, molest, intimidate, injure, or obstruct another person, including without limitation violating Code Section 40-6-42, 40-6-48, 40-6-49, 40-6-123, 40-6- ...What is traffic law 40 6 390 in Georgia? ›
Reckless Driving. Any person who drives any vehicle in reckless disregard for the safety of persons or property commits the offense of reckless driving.What is GA traffic law 40 5 121? ›
- O.C.G.A. § 40-5-121 requires a mandatory imprisonment of not less than two days nor more than six months upon the first misdemeanor conviction for driving while a license is suspended, revoked, or disqualified. The sentence may be suspended or probated pursuant to the authority provided in O.C.G.A. § 17-10-1(a).
The driver of a vehicle intending to turn to the left within an intersection or into an alley, private road, or driveway shall yield the right of way to any vehicle approaching from the opposite direction which is within the intersection or so close thereto as to constitute an immediate hazard.What is a traffic misdemeanor in Georgia? ›
These include hit and run, killing someone with your vehicle, street racing, DUI, driving without registration, without insurance, or with a suspended license.What is GA Traffic Law 40 6 73? ›
Entering or Crossing Roadway. The driver of a vehicle about to enter or cross a roadway from any place other than another roadway shall yield the right of way to all vehicles approaching on the roadway to be entered or crossed.What is GA traffic law 40 6 72? ›
After stopping, the driver shall yield the right of way to any vehicle in the intersection or approaching on another roadway so closely as to constitute an immediate hazard during the time when such driver is moving across or within the intersection or junction of roadways.How long do traffic violations stay on your record in Georgia? ›
In Georgia, points remain on a driver's record for two years. However, they drop off at the two-year mark from the exact date each point was added. That means if you receive more than one ticket at different times, some points may come off sooner than others.Are all traffic violations misdemeanors in Georgia? ›
Traffic Laws in Georgia
In Georgia, all traffic offenses are misdemeanors. Our system is not typical. In most of the United States, traffic offenses are mostly civil infractions that do not carry the possibility of a jail sentence. There are advantages and disadvantages to our system in the State of Georgia.
Q: How long does a misdemeanor conviction stay on your record in Georgia? A misdemeanor will stay on your criminal record for life in Georgia unless you have it deleted. To qualify for expungement, you must have completed your sentence and not have any other convictions.Is 65 in a 45 a super speeder in GA? ›
1. What is Super Speeder? Georgia's 'Super Speeder Law' defines a Super Speeder as a driver convicted of speeding at 75 mph or more on a two-lane road or at 85 mph and above on any road or highway in the State of Georgia.What is the most common misdemeanor in Georgia? ›
The most common misdemeanors in Georgia are traffic related. This may start with a speeding or DUI charge and lead to drug related, or disorderly conduct charges. Also common are the charges of assault, domestic violence, public drunkenness, vandalism and trespassing.What is Georgia traffic law 40 6 397? ›
Section 40-6-397 - Aggressive driving (a) A person commits the offense of aggressive driving when he or she operates any motor vehicle with the intent to annoy, harass, molest, intimidate, injure, or obstruct another person, including without limitation violating Code Section 40-6-42, 40-6-48, 40-6-49, 40-6-123, 40-6- ...
|Exceeding the limit by 5 mph or less||$0|
|Exceeding the limit by more than 5 but no more than 10 mph||$25|
|Exceeding the limit by more than 10 but no more than 14 mph||$100|
|Exceeding the limit by more than 14 but less than 19 mph||$125|
Basic Rules. No person shall drive a vehicle at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the conditions and having regard for the actual and potential hazards then existing.