Georgia Governor Signs into Law a Fixed School Bus Safety Statute

Today in Atlanta, the Governor of Georgia signed a bill fixing last year’s school bus passing law, according to a report by WSB-TV. A full reading of the text of Senate Bill 25 can be found on the Georgia General Assembly’s website.

The bill amends O.C.G.A. § 40‑6-163, which last year written in a manner that made it no longer a violation to pass a school bus (when loading or unloading children) from the opposite direction of travel when on a road divided by a center center turn lane.

That has been fixed as the problematic language has been deleted from the statute. Now, it is against the law again in Georgia to pass a school bus from the opposite direction when it is loading or unloading children on all roads except in the situation where it occurs “with separate roadways that are separated by a grass median, unpaved area, or physical barrier need not stop upon meeting or passing a school bus which is on the separate roadway or upon a controlled access highway when the school bus is stopped in a loading zone which is a part of or adjacent to such highway and where pedestrians are not permitted to cross the roadway." O.C.G.A. § 40‑6-163(b) (2019).

This law went effect immediately, so as of earlier this morning, February 15, 2019, safety measures in the law appear to be restored in Georgia. Hopefully, this fixed law will prevent tragic wrongful deaths and injuries for Georgia’s children.

If you or a loved one have been injured or killed in a Georgia automobile or pedestrian wreck, please contact Gwinnett County based personal injury lawyer Richard Armond at (678) 661-9585 for a free consultation. 

Attorney Richard Armond of The Armond Firm, LLC, handles serious personal injury and wrongful death cases throughout metro Atlanta and the State of Georgia. He is licensed to practice law by the State Bar of Georgia and is based in Lawrenceville, one mile down the road from the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center. Call him today for a free consultation at (678) 661-9585. The information above is for informational purposes only as of the date of publication and should not be relied upon as legal advice, nor does the reading of it form an attorney-client relationship. Always consult directly with an attorney for legal advice.

Georgia looking to fix school bus passing law

One thing we want Georgia traffic laws to do is to keep us safe on the roads through reasonable enforcement. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Georgia General Assembly is looking to fix Georgia’s school bus passing law that went into effect on July 1, 2018. The statute at issue, O.C.G.A. § 40‑6-163(b), arguably was written such that it is no longer a violation to pass a school bus from the opposite direction of travel when on a road divided by a center center turn lane. Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr came to that opinion on August 20, 2018.

As the Atlanta Journal-Constitution story reports, Georgia lawmakers in both the House and Senate are looking to fix the law this year. This law is a major safety issue for our state and needs to be changed. The story cites a survey of school bus drivers in which 10,988 drivers witnessed 7,465 illegal passes in just a single day.

Further, there has been at least one documented wrongful death of a child since the new law went into effect. This past October in Colquitt County two children were struck while crossing the street to a waiting, stopped school bus. According to WCTV one child died and the other was seriously injured.

Hopefully, the Georgia General Assembly will fix the apparent error with school bus passing law and make our roads safer for children getting on and off the school bus.

If you or a loved one have been injured or killed in a Georgia automobile or pedestrian wreck, please contact Gwinnett County based personal injury lawyer Richard Armond at (678) 661-9585 for a free consultation. 

Attorney Richard Armond of The Armond Firm, LLC, handles serious personal injury and wrongful death cases throughout metro Atlanta and the State of Georgia. He is licensed to practice law by the State Bar of Georgia and is based in Lawrenceville, one mile down the road from the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center. Call him today for a free consultation at (678) 661-9585. The information above is for informational purposes only as of the date of publication and should not be relied upon as legal advice, nor does the reading of it form an attorney-client relationship. Always consult directly with an attorney for legal advice.

DeKalb County, Georgia School Bus Pedestrian Fatality Accident

This blog post addresses an incredibly sad story in the Atlanta news today. It involves a wrongful death of a child in an auto accident/pedestrian accident case and personal injury to the child's mother. This incident happened in DeKalb County, next door to Gwinnett County where my practice is located. I handled personal injury and wrongful death cases throughout metro Atlanta and the State of Georgia. This post addresses some of the legal issues in a Georgia personal injury and wrongful death case such as the tragic one today.  

Today the AJC is reporting heartbreaking news from DeKalb County, Georgia, where an eight year-old girl and her mother were struck by a car. The girl has died and her mother has moderate injuries. Reportedly the girl and her mother were in a marked crosswalk and crossing the street for her school bus, which was stopped with its lights flashing and stop sign out. The driver of the car, whose name has not been released, has allegedly been arrested and charges are allegedly pending.

First and foremost thoughts and prayers should be with the mother of the child and her family.

Potential Liability in this Georgia Pedestrian Fatality and Injury Accident

I have written before about Georgia's rules of the road applicable to school buses (click here for that post). From a legal perspective this case would, after full investigation to determine if the driver was at fault, involve potential claims by child's parents for wrongful death and a personal injury action for the mother based on her injuries. 

In addition to evaluating negligence of the driver of the car, the early reports from the AJC seem to indicate the potential of violations involving O.C.G.A. § 40-6-163 for unlawfully meeting a school bus and O.C.G.A. § 40-6-91 for failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk. 

Investigation in a Georgia Pedestrian Fatality or Injury Case

Typically in fatality accidents such as this one the accident investigation unit of the DeKalb Police Department will complete a full investigation including an accident reconstruction report. They will typically download any data from the onboard computer of the offending vehicle to determine potential negligence based on speed or lack of braking. They will also typically do a full analysis of the vehicle to determine if there were any defects with the vehicle and to determine if it was properly maintained in areas such as the braking system and tire tread. Sometimes they will also look at cell phone records of the driver to see if phone usage at the time is an issue (distracted driving or texting and driving). 

Sources of Recovery in a Georgia Pedestrian Fatality or Injury Case

If it can be shown that the driver of the car in this Georgia pedestrian accident is liable through negligence and/or other violations of the rules of the road, the amount of automobile liability insurance she carried will be the first source of recovery of damages. Hopefully, this is more than the Georgia minimums of $25,000 per person and $50,000 total in any one incident. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for motorists in Georgia to have bare minimum coverage.

A second source of potential recovery, and a major reason why a Georgia personal injury and wrongful death lawyer should be retained promptly, is uninsured motorist coverage on any auto policy in the household of the mother or child. It is important to protect your household to have this coverage on all of your auto policies. The reason is because this coverage can be a source of recovery in any accident involving a motor vehicle, including when a member of your household is struck as a pedestrian. This coverage can cover any loss should the driver of the car not have insurance or any amount of loss that can be proven as greater than the other driver's policy limit. Uninsured motorist coverage typically has strict time limitations and requirements for how your insurance company must be notified in the event of an injury. Failure to comply with your policy can result in a denial of coverage and a personal injury lawyer can ensure this is done correctly. 

Again, car accidents and pedestrian accidents such as the one today are tragic and heartbreaking. One family will never be the same. Our thoughts in prayers are with the girl and her family. 

If a loved one of yours has been injured lost in a car accident, pedestrian accident, or any other type of personal injury or wrongful death incident in Georgia, please contact Gwinnett County based personal injury lawyer Richard Armond at (678) 661-9585 for a free consultation. 

Attorney Richard Armond of The Armond Firm, LLC, handles serious personal injury and wrongful death cases throughout metro Atlanta and the State of Georgia. He is licensed to practice law by the State Bar of Georgia and is based in Lawrenceville, one mile down the road from the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center. Call him today for a free consultation at (678) 661-9585. The information above is for informational purposes only as of the date of publication and should not be relied upon as legal advice, nor does the reading of it form an attorney-client relationship. Always consult directly with an attorney for legal advice.

Georgia school bus safety.

Attorney Richard Armond of The Armond Firm, LLC, is licensed to practice law in the State of Georgia. Based in Gwinnett County, he handles serious personal injury and wrongful death cases throughout metro Atlanta and the State of Georgia. Call him for a free consultation at (678) 661-9585.

Today marks the final day of National School Bus Safety Week for 2017. We should all be fully aware of Georgia laws protecting our children who ride the bus to and from school. Title 40, Article 8 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated specifically addresses school buses.

O.C.G.A. § 40-6-163 sets forth the law applicable to drivers of motor vehicles when meeting or overtaking school buses. The first two subsections provide:

“(a) Except as provided in subsection (b) of this Code section, the driver of a vehicle meeting or overtaking from either direction any school bus stopped on the highway shall stop before reaching such school bus when there are in operation on the school bus the visual signals as specified in Code Sections 40-8-111 and 40-8-115, and such driver shall not proceed until the school bus resumes motion or the visual signals are no longer actuated.

(b) The driver of a vehicle upon a highway with separate roadways need not stop upon meeting or passing a school bus which is on a different roadway, or upon a controlled-access highway when the school bus is stopped in a loading zone which is a part of or adjacent to such highway and where pedestrians are not permitted to cross the roadway.”

The sum and substance of O.C.G.A. § 40-6-163 is that drivers of motor vehicles must stop prior to reaching a school bus regardless of whether approaching from the front or rear with the few limited exceptions detailed in the statute. Those exceptions are (1) when there are separate roadways (when there is a raised or defined median where cars cannot cross) and (2) when on a controlled-access highway (such as interstates or other major highways with exit and entrance ramps) when the school bus is stopped in a loading zone that is part of or adjacent to the roadway and where pedestrians are not permitted to cross. This may be somewhat confusing, but the law is actually very clear:  even on the major thoroughfares we have all around Atlanta such as those that have two lanes going in each direction with a center turn lane in the middle, cars going in both directions must stop for a school bus (even if you are on the far opposite side of the road basically four or five full lanes away!). Center turn lanes are not medians no matter how big a road is and all vehicles must stop.

A violation of O.C.G.A. § 40-6-163 can be enforced by the State of Georgia through a criminal or a civil penalty, and it can also be the basis for showing negligence on the part of the violator should a child be injured or killed. The law puts six points on the license of any violator who is convicted criminally, which is the highest level points assessment used by the Georgia Department of Driver Services.

O.C.G.A. §§ 40-6-160, 40-6-161, 40-6-162, 40-6-164, and 40-6-165 all set forth laws applicable to the drivers of school buses. Violations of these sections can result in criminal penalties for the bus driver, but also can be the basis for a civil claim or can help to support a negligence claim in the event a child is hurt or killed based on the actions of the bus driver. Please talk to your children about safety waiting for, loading, disembarking, and crossing in front of school buses. School bus injuries are preventable if bus drivers and all other drivers on the roadway follow the law, but parents and educators should also teach children safe habits relating to school buses.

If your child has been injured in an accident related to a school bus, contact attorney Richard Armond at (678) 661-9585 for a free consultation today.

The information above is for informational purposes only as of the date of publication and should not be relied upon as legal advice, nor does the reading of it form an attorney-client relationship. Always consult directly with an attorney for legal advice.