Traffic Related Accidents Increase in Georgia

After nine years of consistent reductions in the number of Georgians who are killed in motor vehicle crashes, fatalities increased a stunning 21 percent in 2015.

1,414 people were killed on the state’s roadways last year, as compared with 1,170 deaths – which was a record low number – in 2014. Officials believe that distracted driving is the primary culprit, so they rolled out the “Drive Alert, Arrive Alive” campaign late last year. In addition to staying off the phone and refraining from texting, the campaign encourages drivers to wear their seatbelts, as 57 percent of the state’s fatality victims were unrestrained. The initiative also focuses on sobriety issues stemming from alcohol and drug use.

47 percent of Georgia’s roadway fatalities in 2014 occurred in single-vehicle crashes.

Legal Duty

One of the foundational cases in this area actually comes from merry old England. The 1932 case of Donoghue v. Stevenson involved a woman who was drinking a bottle of ginger beer at a Scotland café. As she poured the contents over a bowl of ice cream, she was horrified to discover a partially decomposed dead snail near the bottom of the bottle. Ms. Donoghue sued the beer bottler for damages, under the theory that the bottler had a legal duty to sell a product free from impurities, such as the aforementioned less-than-alive mollusk.

Such a theory was basically unheard of at the time. To resolve the dispute, Lord Atkin articulated the “neighbour principle.”

The rule that you are to love your neighbour becomes in law, you must not injure your neighbour. . . .You must take reasonable care to avoid acts or omissions which you can reasonably foresee would be likely to injure your neighbours, [who are] persons. . .so closely and directly affected by my act that I ought reasonably to have them in contemplation as being so affected.

The neighbor principle found its way into American law as the duty of reasonable care. As Lord Atkin stated, this duty is basically the Golden Rule translated into legal terms. When we are driving, we want other motorists to observe the rules of the road, focus on operating their vehicles, and drive defensively. Therefore, that duty extends to everyone, at least in most cases.

In some circumstances, drivers owe a higher duty to their fellow motorists. This higher duty sometimes applies in the case of commercial drivers.

Breach

Duty is a legal question, but breach, the second element in a negligence case, is a fact question. Essentially, any careless behavior is considered to be a breach of duty.

For example, Georgia has one of the broadest distracted driving laws in the country. In addition to cellphone use, it can be applied to eating while driving, applying makeup while driving, and any other behavior that causes drivers to lose focus on the road.

Drivers who breach the duty of reasonable care must compensate victims for the damages they cause. For prompt assistance in this area, contact an aggressive Fayetteville personal injury attorney. At the Wade Law Office, we do not charge upfront legal fees in a negligence case.

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