Sheriff’s Office Traffic Tip of the Month – August 2023

Georgia weather can be unpredictable. One minute, you’re driving down the road enjoying the sunshine. Then, the next thing you know, your vehicle is being pelted by heavy rain and hail from a severe afternoon thunderstorm.

When inclement weather occurs while operating a motor vehicle on one of Georgia’s roadways, the first concern is occupant safety. Vision can quickly become obscured due to heavy rain, changing light conditions, fog coverage or snow. One of the first things Georgia motorist usually do when these conditions occur is activate their vehicle’s headlights to increase visibility, along with their windshield wipers when necessary.

Most motorist know there is a Georgia law requiring headlights during certain situations and that statute is OCGA 40-8-20:

Every vehicle upon a highway within this state at any time from a half-hour after sunset to a half-hour before sunrise and at any time when it is raining in the driving zone and at any other time when there is not sufficient visibility to render clearly discernible persons and vehicles on the highway at a distance of 500 feet ahead shall display lights, including headlights, and illuminating devices as required in this part for different classes of vehicles, subject to exceptions with respect to parked vehicles as stated in this part.

This statute describes when it is required for a motorist to activate their vehicle’s headlights. Most drivers activate their vehicle’s lights when it’s dark outside, but many may not realize that this Georgia Law requires motorist to have their headlights on 30 minutes after the designated sunset until 30 minutes before sunrise. Georgia motorists must also have their headlights on anytime it is raining or visibility is reduced due to weather or lighting conditions that would make it difficult to clearly see a person from 500 feet ahead of the vehicle.

Although this statue does not mention the use of hazard lights being activated during inclement weather, it is important to recognize some safety concerns when using your vehicle’s hazard lights. First, it is not illegal to use hazard lights while operating a motor vehicle in the State of Georgia. However, drivers must understand that when using your vehicle’s hazard lights, you are unable to indicate to other motorist near you that you are changing lanes and turning. This can create an unsafe condition and cause accidents.

In addition, when hazard lights are activated while operating a motor vehicle in heavy rain or snow, there is a momentary period of time when no lights are visible and that can make it harder to see the vehicle that has activated its hazard lights, which can cause a wreck. The best time to use hazard lights is when you have pulled over to the side of the roadway under an emergency condition. Activated hazard lights also do not give motorist the ability to drive in a reckless manner, run red lights, or travel at an unsafe speed.

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