2020 Georgia Code
Title 40 - Motor Vehicles and Traffic
Chapter 6 - Uniform Rules of the Road
Article 2 - Traffic Signs, Signals, and Markings
§ 40-6-20. Obedience to Traffic-Control Devices Required; Presumptions; Red Light Cameras

Universal Citation: GA Code § 40-6-20 (2020)
  1. The driver of any vehicle shall obey the instructions of an official traffic-control device applicable thereto, placed in accordance with this chapter, unless otherwise directed by a police officer, subject to the exceptions granted the driver of an authorized emergency vehicle in this chapter. A violation of this subsection shall be a misdemeanor, except as otherwise provided by subsection (f) of this Code section.
  2. No provisions of this chapter which require official traffic-control devices shall be enforced against an alleged violator if at the time and place of the alleged violation an official device was not in proper position and sufficiently legible to be seen by an ordinarily observant person. Whenever a particular Code section does not state that official traffic-control devices are required, such Code section shall be effective even though no devices are erected or in place.
  3. Whenever official traffic-control devices are placed in position approximately conforming to the requirements of this chapter, such devices shall be presumed to have been so placed by the official act or direction of lawful authority, unless the contrary shall be established by competent evidence.
  4. Any official traffic-control device placed pursuant to this chapter and purporting to conform to the lawful requirements pertaining to such devices shall be presumed to comply with the requirements of this chapter, unless the contrary shall be established by competent evidence.
  5. The disregard or disobedience of the instructions of any official traffic-control device or signal placed in accordance with the provisions of this chapter by the driver of a vehicle shall be deemed prima-facie evidence of a violation of law, without requiring proof of who and by what authority such sign or device has been erected.
    1. As used in this subsection, the term:
      1. "Owner" means the registrant of a motor vehicle, except that such term shall not include a motor vehicle rental company when a motor vehicle registered by such company is being operated by another person under a rental agreement with such company.
      2. "Recorded images" means images recorded by a traffic-control signal monitoring device:
        1. On:
      3. Two or more photographs;
      4. Two or more microphotographs;
      5. Two or more electronic images; or
      6. Videotape; and
        1. Showing a traffic-control signal displaying a CIRCULAR RED or RED ARROW signal along with the rear of a motor vehicle apparently operated in disregard or disobedience of such signal and, on at least one image or portion of tape, clearly revealing the number or other identifying designation of the license plate displayed on the motor vehicle.
      7. "Traffic-control signal monitoring device" means a device with one or more motor vehicle sensors working in conjunction with a traffic-control signal to produce recorded images of motor vehicles being operated in disregard or disobedience of a CIRCULAR RED or RED ARROW signal.
    2. Subsection (a) of this Code section may be enforced as provided in this subsection pursuant to the use of traffic-control signal monitoring devices in accordance with Article 3 of Chapter 14 of this title.
    3. For the purpose of enforcement pursuant to this subsection:
      1. The driver of a motor vehicle shall be liable for a civil monetary penalty of not more than $70.00 if such vehicle is found, as evidenced by recorded images produced by a traffic-control signal monitoring device, to have been operated in disregard or disobedience of a CIRCULAR RED or RED ARROW signal in violation of subsection (a) of this Code section and such disregard or disobedience was not otherwise authorized by law;
      2. The law enforcement agency authorized to enforce the provisions of this Code section shall send by regular mail addressed to the owner of the motor vehicle postmarked not later than ten days after the date of the alleged violation:
        1. A citation for the alleged violation, which shall include the date and time of the violation, the location of the intersection, the amount of the civil monetary penalty imposed, and the date by which the civil monetary penalty shall be paid;
        2. A copy of the recorded image;
        3. A copy of a certificate sworn to or affirmed by a certified peace officer employed by a law enforcement agency authorized to enforce this Code section and stating that, based upon inspection of recorded images, the owner's motor vehicle was operated in disregard or disobedience of a CIRCULAR RED or RED ARROW signal in violation of subsection (a) of this Code section and that such disregard or disobedience was not otherwise authorized by law;
        4. A statement of the inference provided by subparagraph (D) of this paragraph and of the means specified therein by which such inference may be rebutted;
        5. Information advising the owner of the motor vehicle of the manner and time in which liability as alleged in the citation may be contested in court; and
        6. Warning that failure to pay the civil monetary penalty or to contest liability in a timely manner shall waive any right to contest liability and result in a civil monetary penalty;

        provided, however, that only warning notices and not citations for violations shall be sent during the 30 day period commencing with the installation of a traffic-control signal monitoring device at such location;

      3. Proof that a motor vehicle was operated in disregard or disobedience of a CIRCULAR RED or RED ARROW signal in violation of subsection (a) of this Code section shall be evidenced by recorded images produced by a traffic-control signal monitoring device authorized pursuant to Article 3 of Chapter 14 of this title. A copy of a certificate sworn to or affirmed by a certified peace officer employed by a law enforcement agency and stating that, based upon inspection of recorded images, a motor vehicle was operated in disregard or disobedience of a CIRCULAR RED or RED ARROW signal in violation of subsection (a) of this Code section and that such disregard or disobedience was not otherwise authorized by law shall be prima-facie evidence of the facts contained therein; and
      4. Liability under this subsection shall be determined based upon preponderance of the evidence. Prima-facie evidence that the vehicle described in the citation issued pursuant to this subsection was operated in violation of subsection (a) of this Code section, together with proof that the defendant was at the time of such violation the registered owner of the vehicle, shall permit the trier of fact in its discretion to infer that such owner of the vehicle was the driver of the vehicle at the time of the alleged violation. Such an inference may be rebutted if the owner of the vehicle:
        1. Testifies under oath in open court or submits to the court a sworn notarized statement that he or she was not the operator of the vehicle at the time of the alleged violation;
        2. Presents to the court a certified copy of a police report showing that the vehicle had been reported to the police as stolen prior to the time of the alleged violation; or
        3. Submits to the court a sworn notarized statement identifying the name of the operator of the vehicle at the time of the alleged violation.
    4. A violation for which a civil penalty is imposed pursuant to this subsection shall not be considered a moving traffic violation, for the purpose of points assessment under Code Section 40-5-57. Such violation shall be deemed noncriminal, and imposition of a civil penalty pursuant to this subsection shall not be deemed a conviction and shall not be made a part of the operating record of the person upon whom such liability is imposed, nor shall it be used for any insurance purposes in the provision of motor vehicle insurance coverage.
    5. If a person summoned by regular mail fails to appear on the date of return set out in the citation and has not paid the penalty for the violation or filed a police report or notarized statement pursuant to subparagraph (D) of paragraph (3) of this subsection, the person shall then be summoned a second time by certified mail with a return receipt requested. The second summons shall include all information required in subparagraph (B) of paragraph (3) of this subsection for the initial summons and shall include a new date of return. If a person summoned by certified mail again fails to appear on the date of return set out in the second citation and has failed to pay the penalty or file an appropriate document for rebuttal, the person summoned shall have waived the right to contest the violation and shall be liable for a civil monetary penalty of not more than $70.00.
    6. Any court having jurisdiction over violations of subsection (a) of this Code section or any ordinance adopting the provisions of said subsection pursuant to Code Section 40-6-372 shall have jurisdiction over cases arising under this subsection and shall be authorized to impose the civil monetary penalty provided by this subsection. Except as otherwise provided in this subsection, the provisions of law governing jurisdiction, procedure, defenses, adjudication, appeal, and payment and distribution of penalties otherwise applicable to violations of subsection (a) of this Code section shall apply to enforcement under this subsection; provided, however, that any appeal from superior or state court shall be by application in the same manner as that provided by Code Section 5-6-35.
    7. Recorded images made for purposes of this subsection shall not be a public record for purposes of Article 4 of Chapter 18 of Title 50.
    8. A governing authority shall not impose a civil penalty under this subsection on the owner of a motor vehicle if the operator of the vehicle was arrested or issued a citation and notice to appear by a peace officer for the same violation that is recorded by a traffic-control signal monitoring device.

(Ga. L. 1953, Nov.-Dec. Sess., p. 556, §§ 32, 34; Code 1933, § 68A-201, enacted by Ga. L. 1974, p. 633, § 1; Ga. L. 1990, p. 2048, § 5; Ga. L. 2001, p. 770, § 2; Ga. L. 2003, p. 597, § 2; Ga. L. 2008, p. 1184, §§ 1, 1.1, 2/HB 77.)

Code Commission notes.

- Pursuant to Code Section 28-9-5, in 2008, the "(8)" designation was added to the last paragraph in subsection (f).

Law reviews.

- For survey article on local government law, see 60 Mercer L. Rev. 263 (2008).

JUDICIAL DECISIONS

Jurisdiction of campus police.

- University police officer had authority under O.C.G.A. § 40-13-30 to issue citations for an accident that occurred at an intersection that bordered the campus, and the trial court, therefore, properly denied defendant's motion for a directed verdict of acquittal under O.C.G.A. § 17-9-1 relating to the charge of failing to obey a traffic control device in violation of O.C.G.A. § 40-6-20; the broad language of O.C.G.A. § 40-13-30 gave any officer of Georgia that had authority to arrest for a misdemeanor the authority to prefer charges and bring offenders to trial. Hawkins v. State, 281 Ga. App. 852, 637 S.E.2d 422 (2006).

Requirements of accusation and ability to withstand demurrer.

- Trial court erred in sustaining defendant's demurrer regarding the charges of failing to yield the right of way while turning left and failing to obey a traffic-control device as an accusation that charges an accused with having committed certain acts in violation of a specified penal statute withstood a demurrer, and the indictment cited both O.C.G.A. §§ 40-6-20 and40-6-71. Further, although the accusation failed to put the defendant on notice of what instruction of a traffic-control device the state alleged the defendant failed to obey, the defendant could not admit that the defendant failed to yield the right of way to a vehicle when the defendant was intending to turn left within the specified intersection, which was regulated by traffic lights, without admitting to the offense of failure to obey a traffic-control device. State v. Shabazz, 291 Ga. App. 751, 662 S.E.2d 828 (2008).

Charge authorized under Code section.

- O.C.G.A. § 40-6-20 requires drivers to obey the instructions of traffic control devices and could be the basis for a charge of vehicular homicide or failure to yield the right of way. State v. Nix, 220 Ga. App. 651, 469 S.E.2d 497 (1996).

Trial court did not err in failing to give requested jury instructions by a driver whose vehicle was involved in a collision with a city fire rescue van as the trial court's instructions under O.C.G.A. §§ 40-6-6 and40-6-20(a) properly allowed the jury to determine whether the rescue van was an authorized emergency vehicle that complied with O.C.G.A. § 40-6-6, and the instructions also adequately informed the jury that the city had the burden of proof on the issue. Wynn v. City of Warner Robins, 279 Ga. App. 42, 630 S.E.2d 574 (2006).

Charge on intent properly required.

- When a case arose from an intersection collision between a car driven by the defendant and another car, a red Mustang, and when the defense's contentions at trial were that the defendant thought the light was green, that the defendant had no intention of running a red light or of causing the victim's death, and that if the defendant did run the red light, it was the result of legal mistake or accident, the trial court did not err by charging the jury on the intent required to commit the offenses charged; the state was required to prove the intent to do the act which resulted in the violation of the law and not the intent to commit the crime itself. Hoffer v. State, 192 Ga. App. 378, 384 S.E.2d 902, cert denied, 192 Ga. App. 902, 384 S.E.2d 902 (1989).

Charge on advisory sign not required.

- In a wrongful death action, the trial court did not err in refusing to charge O.C.G.A. § 40-6-20 since the yellow sign with the legend "exit 30 m.p.h." located near the area of the fatal impact was an advisory sign. Norman v. Williams, 220 Ga. App. 367, 469 S.E.2d 366 (1996).

Presumption of proper placement of no parking sign.

- Whenever a no parking sign is placed in a position approximately conforming to the requirements of this chapter, the sign shall be presumed to have been so placed by the official act or direction of lawful authority, unless the contrary shall be established by competent evidence. Fabian v. Vincent, 155 Ga. App. 464, 270 S.E.2d 858 (1980).

Merger into vehicular homicide.

- Defendant's reckless driving, running a red light, and less safe driving under the influence convictions merged into the defendant's reckless vehicular homicide convictions, which involved two deaths resulting from the defendant's striking a car; however, the failure to exercise due care conviction involving the defendant striking a pedestrian did not merge into the vehicular homicide conviction as the acts leading to the two charges involved different facts and different victims. Hill v. State, 285 Ga. App. 503, 646 S.E.2d 718 (2007).

Stoplight showing green lights in both directions.

- When the case arose from an intersection collision between a car which defendant drove and another car, because the trial court correctly and repeatedly charged that the defendant could be convicted only if the state proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the stop light facing the defendant was red, any defense based upon the light being green when the defendant went through the light was not an accident defense; logically, one cannot be convicted of running a red light if the light was, in fact, green; accordingly, the defendant's contention that a malfunction of the light showing green lights in both directions did not give rise to the defense of accident. Hoffer v. State, 192 Ga. App. 378, 384 S.E.2d 902, cert. denied, 192 Ga. App. 902, 384 S.E.2d 902 (1989).

Conditions for speed limit reduction.

- Whether the speed limit has been reduced depends upon whether action has been taken by a governing authority and proper notice posted on the highway. Harper v. Brown, 122 Ga. App. 316, 176 S.E.2d 621 (1970).

Transportation Department presumed responsible for highway sign.

- Under subsection (c) of Ga. L. 1953, Nov.-Dec. Sess. p. 556 (see now O.C.G.A. § 40-6-20), a sign or marking on a state highway is presumed to have been put there by the authority of the State Highway Department (now Department of Transportation). Maxwell v. State, 97 Ga. App. 334, 103 S.E.2d 162 (1958).

Violation of self-explanatory traffic-control device.

- All traffic-control devices placed on the highway are presumed to be placed there by the authority of the State Highway Board (now State Transportation Board) of this state. Those which are self-explanatory are such that a violation thereof is a penal offense. Maxwell v. State, 97 Ga. App. 334, 103 S.E.2d 162 (1958).

No judicial notice of familiarity with highway manual.

- Interpretation of signs and signals as provided by the manual of the State Highway Board (now State Transportation Board) is not a matter of which the court can take judicial cognizance, nor one which it can presume that every motorist is familiar with, to the extent of imposing penal sanctions for disobedience thereof. Maxwell v. State, 97 Ga. App. 334, 103 S.E.2d 162 (1958).

Driver obeying sign may assume maximum speed limit not exceeded.

- Driver must be entitled to assume that the driver is not exceeding the maximum speed limit when the driver drives in obedience to the sign, although the sign indicates a higher limit than that provided by a valid ordinance. Palmer v. Stevens, 115 Ga. App. 398, 154 S.E.2d 803 (1967).

Prima facie evidence of legal violation.

- Proof that a speed limit sign exists at a given spot and that a driver disobeyed the sign constitutes prima facie evidence of a violation of law, without showing that the sign was official or by whom and by what authority the sign was erected. Palmer v. Stevens, 115 Ga. App. 398, 154 S.E.2d 803 (1967).

Burden of showing sign not placed by governmental authority.

- Ga. L. 1953, Nov.-Dec. Sess., p. 556 (see now O.C.G.A. § 40-6-20) must mean that the movant may offer evidence that a traffic-control sign or device existed at the given spot; the burden is then upon the person objecting to the evidence to offer evidence showing that the signal was not placed there by any proper governmental authority. The evidence might be general, as showing that the signal in question is not one used by the authority having jurisdiction at that place; it might be a showing that it was placed there by an unauthorized authority, or it might be any other type of evidence sufficient to overcome the prima facie showing that the device existed and should therefore have been obeyed. Fields v. Jackson, 102 Ga. App. 117, 115 S.E.2d 877 (1960).

Burden is upon the person objecting to evidence that a traffic-control sign or device existed at a given spot to offer evidence showing that the signal was not placed there by any proper governmental authority. The evidence might be general, as showing that the signal in question is not one used by the authority having jurisdiction at that place; it might be a showing that it was placed there by an unauthorized authority; or it might be any other type of evidence sufficient to overcome the prima facie showing that the device existed and should therefore have been obeyed. Munday v. Brissette, 113 Ga. App. 147, 148 S.E.2d 55, rev'd on other grounds, 222 Ga. 162, 149 S.E.2d 110 (1966).

Driving through private shopping center.

- Driver's argument that a city employee was acting outside the scope of employment at the time of an accident was without merit because the employee's act of crossing a private shopping center before pulling onto the road was not unlawful under O.C.G.A. § 40-6-20(e) (disregard of a traffic signal) or O.C.G.A. § 16-7-21(b)(1) (criminal trespass); the employee was therefore immune from suit and liability based on O.C.G.A. § 36-92-3. Guice v. Brown, 334 Ga. App. 199, 778 S.E.2d 823 (2015).

Sufficient evidence to show violation.

- Police officer's testimony that the defendant went through a red light was sufficient evidence to convict the defendant driver of violating O.C.G.A. § 40-6-20. Lanwehr v. State, 265 Ga. App. 359, 593 S.E.2d 897 (2004).

There was sufficient evidence to support the defendant's conviction for vehicular homicide by driving under the influence of alcohol. The testimony of the arresting officer that the defendant appeared intoxicated, a videotape of the defendant interacting with the officer at the scene, the testimony of an expert that indicated that the defendant took no evasive actions and struck the pedestrian in a well-lighted area, and the testimony of witnesses that the defendant ran a red light supported the defendant's conviction. Brown v. State, 291 Ga. App. 383, 662 S.E.2d 206 (2008).

Because a police officer observed the defendant make a turn even though the arrows indicating that turn remained red, the valid traffic stop was not impermissibly prolonged pending the arrival of a second officer due to the first officer's incapacity to smell; accordingly, the evidence was sufficient to sustain the defendant's conviction for driving under the influence and failing to obey a traffic control device under O.C.G.A. §§ 40-6-20 and40-6-391(a)(1), (a)(5). Peterson v. State, 294 Ga. App. 128, 668 S.E.2d 544 (2008).

Evidence was sufficient to support the defendant's conviction for disobeying a traffic control device under O.C.G.A. § 40-6-20 because, although the defendant never reached the intersection at issue because the defendant rear-ended the last of three cars sitting at the intersection, a reasonable reading of the statute required that a driver facing a red traffic light stop behind the stop line or cross walk and also behind those vehicles stopped in observance of the traffic light. Brogdon v. State, 299 Ga. App. 547, 683 S.E.2d 99 (2009), aff'd, 287 Ga. 528, 697 S.E.2d 211 (2010).

Jury cannot decide speed limit of unmarked area.

- Issue should not be left after the event for a jury to decide, since official action has not been taken, whether it considers an unmarked area to have a certain speed limit. Harper v. Brown, 122 Ga. App. 316, 176 S.E.2d 621 (1970).

Giving charge regarding the lack of an absolute duty to have one's vehicle under control was error since it was undisputed that the defendant ran a red light; the charge given applies to intersections where right-of-way rules apply. Fouts v. Builders Transp., Inc., 222 Ga. App. 568, 474 S.E.2d 746 (1996).

Fine for running red light.

- Defendant's fine of $252 for running a red light was not excessive under state law since a misdemeanor is generally punishable by a fine not to exceed $1,000 or a sentence not to exceed 12 months. The fact that the trial court might generally impose lesser fines in other cases would not without more render a larger fine impermissible in a particular case. Riddle v. State, 202 Ga. App. 194, 413 S.E.2d 494 (1991).

City did not violate a driver's substantive due process rights by adding court surcharges under O.C.G.A. § 15-21-73 to a penalty for running a red light under O.C.G.A. § 40-6-20 before stopping the practice pursuant to an opinion by the state attorney general; the city's actions of collecting surcharges that the city thought were permissible under state law and remitting the monies to other governmental authorities appeared to have been taken in good faith and did not shock the conscience. City of Duluth v. Morgan, 287 Ga. App. 322, 651 S.E.2d 475 (2007).

Cited in Liberty Mut. Ins. Co. v. Bray, 136 Ga. App. 587, 222 S.E.2d 70 (1975); Andrews v. Buckner, 143 Ga. App. 862, 240 S.E.2d 266 (1977); Georgia S. & Fla. Ry. v. Odom, 152 Ga. App. 664, 263 S.E.2d 469 (1979); State v. Williams, 156 Ga. App. 813, 275 S.E.2d 133 (1980); Washington v. Washington, 181 Ga. App. 848, 354 S.E.2d 25 (1987); Duke Trucking Co. v. Giles, 185 Ga. App. 833, 366 S.E.2d 216 (1988); Ward v. State, 188 Ga. App. 372, 373 S.E.2d 65 (1988); Lyons v. State, 208 Ga. App. 632, 431 S.E.2d 432 (1993); DOT v. Jackson, 229 Ga. App. 321, 494 S.E.2d 20 (1997); Howard v. State, 233 Ga. App. 861, 505 S.E.2d 270 (1998); Driver v. State, 240 Ga. App. 513, 523 S.E.2d 919 (1999); United States v. Benitez-Macedo, 129 Fed. Appx. 506 (11th Cir. 2005); Jaheni v. State, 285 Ga. App. 266, 645 S.E.2d 735 (2007); Horne v. State, 286 Ga. App. 712, 649 S.E.2d 889 (2007); Green v. State, 287 Ga. App. 248, 651 S.E.2d 174 (2007); Dunagan v. State, 283 Ga. 501, 661 S.E.2d 525 (2008); State v. Ogilvie, 292 Ga. 6, 734 S.E.2d 50 (2012).

OPINIONS OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL

Official signs afford same protection as other traffic devices.

- Official traffic control signs, such as "Men Working," "Watch for Mowers," and "Survey Party," afford the same legal protection that is afforded by other official traffic control devices. 1970 Op. Att'y Gen. No. 70-55.

Construction with other law.

- Additional monetary penalties provided in O.C.G.A. § 15-21-73 may not be added to the civil monetary penalties imposed pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 40-6-20. 2005 Op. Att'y Gen. No. U2005-4.

RESEARCH REFERENCES

Am. Jur. 2d.

- 7A Am. Jur. 2d, Automobiles and Highway Traffic, §§ 240, 246, 305, 314 et seq., 329 et seq.

8 Am. Jur. 2d, Automobiles and Highway Traffic, § 911.

C.J.S.

- 60 C.J.S., Motor Vehicles, §§ 28 et seq., 33, 51, 53, 54, 56 et seq., 74. 60A C.J.S., Motor Vehicles, §§ 494, 564, 565, 566, 838 et seq. 61 C.J.S., Motor Vehicles, § 1254. 61A C.J.S., Motor Vehicles, § 1642.

ALR.

- Liability for automobile accident, other than direct collision with pedestrian, as affected by reliance upon or disregard of stop-and-go signal, 2 A.L.R.3d 12.

Liability for collision of automobile with pedestrian at intersection as affected by reliance upon or disregard of stop-and-go signal, 2 A.L.R.3d 155.

Liability for automobile accident at intersection as affected by reliance upon or disregard of "yield" sign or signal, 2 A.L.R.3d 275.

Liability for automobile accident at intersection as affected by reliance upon or disregard of unchanging stop signal or sign, 3 A.L.R.3d 180.

Liability for automobile accident at intersection as affected by reliance upon or disregard of unchanging caution, slow, danger, or like sign or signal, 3 A.L.R.3d 507.

Liability for collision of automobile with pedestrian at intersection as affected by reliance upon or disregard of traffic sign or signal other than stop-and-go signal, 3 A.L.R.3d 557.

Disclaimer: These codes may not be the most recent version. Georgia may have more current or accurate information. We make no warranties or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained on this site or the information linked to on the state site. Please check official sources.