Sometimes police or other first responders are involved in accidents as they travel to the emergency to which they are called. But rarely are two responders separately involved in accidents or other collisions that keep them from getting to their emergency destination. Recently, two police officers from Roswell ended up in accidents themselves. They were responding to a third crash on Georgia 400. It appears that one driver failed to yield and helped cause at least some of the crash chaos. As a Atlanta car accident lawyer, I am aware of other accidents that were at least caused in part by a failure of a driver to yield to emergency vehicles.
In this situation, the officers were responding to the accident on Georgia 400 and were traveling on Holcomb Bridge Road. According to reports, the initial accident involved a female driver whose vehicle struck the median wall. Her injuries were not serious. But it was the failure of a vehicle on Holcomb Bridge Road to yield to the police car whose sirens and lights were on, that caused the second wreck on that road. Thankfully, there were no injuries in that accident.
When a second police officer responded to the original crash, that officer's vehicle hit a pedestrian also on Holcomb Bridge Road. The man who was hit by the emergency responder's car was said to be in stable condition and perhaps sustained a knee injury. The pedestrian accident is under investigation by a neighboring department, which is standard policy in such situations.
It is unfortunate that some drivers need to be reminded that emergency vehicles and responders have the right of way when they are indicating an emergency and failing to yield is in violation of Georgia law. I want to remind readers of some of the stringent rules that apply to emergency vehicles in Georgia.
Under Official Code of Georgia Annotated section 40-6-74 drivers must yield the right of way to emergency vehicles as follows: "(a) Upon the immediate approach of an authorized emergency vehicle or a vehicle belonging to a federal, state, or local law enforcement agency making use of an audible signal and visual signals meeting the requirements of Code Section 40-6-6, the driver of every other vehicle shall yield the right of way and shall immediately drive to a position parallel to, and as close as possible to, the right-hand edge or curb of the roadway clear of any intersection and shall stop and remain in such position until the authorized emergency vehicle or law enforcement vehicle has passed, except when otherwise directed by a police officer." This provision does not "relieve the driver of any authorized emergency vehicle from the duty to drive with due regard for the safety of all persons using the highway."
In addition, Georgia's move-over law requires that drivers move-over for emergency vehicles stopped on the side of the highway. This law was the result of the increase in injuries and death to emergency responders, DOT workers and citizens involved in the accident or other emergency. The FBI has reported that traffic accidents are the leading cause of death for police across the country. And many law enforcement officers are injured or killed as they perform their duties on the roadside as cars pass. The move-over law requires vehicles to move-over one lane if they can do so safely or slow down if they cannot.
The Official Code of Georgia Annotated section 40-6-16, states that motor vehicle drivers "approaching a stationary authorized emergency vehicle or highway maintenance vehicle that is displaying flashing yellow, amber, white, red, or blue lights shall approach the authorized emergency vehicle with due caution and shall, absent any other direction by a peace officer, proceed as follows: 1. Make a lane change into a lane not adjacent to the authorized emergency vehicle if possible in the existing safety and traffic conditions; or 2. If a lane change under paragraph (1) of this subsection would be impossible, prohibited by law, or unsafe, reduce the speed of the motor vehicle to a reasonable and proper speed for the existing road and traffic conditions, which speed shall be less than the posted speed limit, and be prepared to stop.