Tailgating is quite a common violation on the road, but people are rarely pulled over and ticketed for it. When tailgating causes an accident, it can lead to serious neck and back injuries, even at low speeds. But questions of fault in these rear-end crashes and other rear-end crashes are often contentious and might have difficult questions to answer before you can get compensation for the accident.
In Georgia, tailgating, a.k.a. “following too closely,” is a traffic violation. The standard used in the statute is that you cannot follow closer than what “is reasonable and prudent,” and there is no specific following distance given. If the driver in the rear is so close that they hit someone, that is often a violation of this rule and can put them at fault for the accident, but when the driver in front “brake checked” them, the answer might be different.
For assistance with a rear-end collision, call our Georgia car accident attorneys at Howe Law today by dialing (844) 876-4357.
What Does the Georgia Traffic Code Say About Tailgating?
Under O.C.G.A. § 40-6-49, it is a violation to follow another car too closely – what we normally refer to as “tailgating.” Subsection (a) of that statute specifically says you cannot follow closer than what would be “reasonable and prudent.”
“Reasonableness” is an objective legal standard that tries to look at what a “reasonable person” would consider safe or justifiable in that case. So rather than looking at what the judge or the police officer who responded to the accident thinks is “reasonable,” the law tries to use what people, generally, think is reasonable.
“Prudence” is tied to this in that the standard relies not just on any reasonable person but a reasonable person said to be “of ordinary prudence.” So that essentially means that you set the standard off an imaginary person who is the normal amount of “careful.” While the average person might not be as careful as we’d hope, the legal standard of a “reasonable person of ordinary prudence” is considered careful enough to prevent a crash when plausible.
When the courts and our Atlanta car accident lawyers assess what to consider “reasonable and prudent,” this statute also says to take vehicle speed and road/weather conditions into consideration. For example, when all of the cars on the road are traveling 65mph, you might expect a careful person to leave a bigger following distance than they would in stop-and-go traffic.
How Much Following Distance Do You Have to Use in Georgia?
Under this statute, there is no specific following distance requirement; you just need to be reasonable and careful about it.
Many safety experts recommend anywhere from a few car lengths to over 15 feet of following distance. While driving, it is difficult to measure your following distance accurately, so other experts say to leave enough space for another car to safely get in front of you or to cross the same point the car in front of you did 1.5 to 3 seconds after they get there.
The core safety issue is that cars should have enough distance to stop in a hurry if they need to. This means leaving more distance when you’re going faster to leave yourself more time to react and slow down. It also means leaving a greater following distance in the rain or other bad weather so you can slow down more carefully instead of skidding or sliding.
All in all, if the driver behind you crashed into you because they did not have a big enough following distance, they are probably in violation of § 40-6-49 and can probably be found responsible for the crash.
Determining Fault in Brake Check Rear-End Crashes
When the driver to the rear is following too closely and you have to stop in a hurry, they are responsible for the crash in most cases. Section 40-6-49 says they need to leave a reasonable following distance, and not giving themselves enough room to stop in an emergency probably means they were too close. But what if there isn’t actually an emergency?
Stopping for a Good Reason
The driver to the front must be reasonable when suddenly slowing down or stopping in the street. If they were stopping because a child ran after a ball in the street or because a tree branch suddenly fell in front of them, they should be allowed to stop and not face any penalties for doing so. But if they did not have a good reason to stop, that could put them at fault for causing a crash.
Intentional or Reckless “Brake Checking”
If the lead driver “brake checked” the driver behind them by suddenly stepping down hard on their brakes to try to draw the car into hitting them, that could qualify as reckless. Reckless driving is illegal under O.C.G.A. § 40-6-390, which considers driving to be “reckless” if it is done without regard for other peoples’ safety. Knowing that you could cause a serious crash and doing it anyway might make brake checking reckless, causing that driver to be at fault when the driver behind them hits them.
However, two wrongs don’t make a right. When the rear driver is tailgating in violation of one statute and the front driver is reckless in violation of another statute, the court could say they are both partially at fault. Georgia allows partially at-fault victims to still get reduced compensation. However, when one driver is merely negligent and the other driver caused a crash recklessly or intentionally, that could cut off the other driver’s negligence and make the brake checker responsible.
Tailgating might also be done recklessly or to intimidate the driver they’re tailgating. Tailgating is one of the offenses listed under the “aggressive driving” statute, O.C.G.A. § 40-6-397, which can upgrade that offense to a misdemeanor and potentially make the tailgater be legally considered the aggressor. This turns what looks like a “brake check” crash into merely the result of panic in the face of intimidation or harassment by the other driver.
Call Our Car Accident Attorneys in Georgia Today
For any car accident in Georgia, contact the Harrison, GA car accident lawyers at Howe Law for a free case evaluation at (844) 876-4357.