2020 Georgia Code
Title 40 - Motor Vehicles and Traffic
Chapter 8 - Equipment and Inspection of Motor Vehicles
Article 1 - Equipment Generally
Part 2 - Lighting Equipment
§ 40-8-23. Taillights

Universal Citation: GA Code § 40-8-23 (2020)
  1. Every motor vehicle, trailer, semitrailer, and pole trailer manufactured prior to January 1, 1954, shall be equipped with at least one taillight mounted on the rear, which when lighted as required in this article shall emit a red light plainly visible from a distance of 500 feet to the rear.
  2. Every motor vehicle, trailer, semitrailer, and pole trailer manufactured after January 1, 1954, shall be equipped with two taillights which meet the specifications provided in this Code section.
  3. Every taillight upon every vehicle shall be located at a height of not more than 60 inches nor less than 20 inches, to be measured as set forth in subsection (b) of Code Section 40-8-21.
  4. Either a taillight or a separate light shall be so constructed and placed as to illuminate with a white light the rear registration plate and render it clearly legible from a distance of 50 feet to the rear. Any taillight or taillights, together with any separate light for illuminating the rear registration plate, shall be so wired as to be lighted whenever the headlights or auxiliary driving lights are lighted.
  5. All lenses on taillights shall be maintained in good repair and shall meet manufacturers' specifications.

(Ga. L. 1953, Nov.-Dec. Sess., p. 556, § 106; Code 1933, § 68E-204, enacted by Ga. L. 1982, p. 165, § 4; Code 1981, §40-8-23, enacted by Ga. L. 1982, p. 165, § 10.)

Code Commission notes.

- Pursuant to Code Section 28-9-5, in 1991, "headlights", "taillight", and "taillights" have been substituted for "head lights", "tail light", and "tail lights", respectively, throughout subsections (a) through (e).


Investigatory stop for taillight violation.

- Grant of the defendant's motion to suppress was not clearly erroneous as the officer stopping the defendant's automobile for an investigatory stop provided no factual basis for believing that the defendant's older model automobile violated the taillight specifications in O.C.G.A. § 40-8-23(e) simply because newer models violated the statute; further, the trial court could have found that the officer's testimony that the officer had conducted research into the newer models' taillights was less than credible. State v. Keddington, 264 Ga. App. 912, 592 S.E.2d 532 (2003).

After a police officer initially stopped the defendant's vehicle because the officer thought that there was no license plate on the vehicle, in violation of O.C.G.A. § 40-8-23(d), but upon a closer inspection the license tag was in fact there but the light for the tag was inoperable, the officer was justified in stopping the vehicle; further, the defendant's nervousness and the smell of marijuana about the car provided a reasonable, articulable suspicion for the officer to detain the defendant for further investigation and suppression of the drugs seized from the defendant's vehicle was properly denied. Collins v. State, 273 Ga. App. 598, 615 S.E.2d 646 (2005).

After reviewing the dash cam recording, the body cam recording, and still photographs, the trial court was authorized to reject the state's claim that it had evinced the underlying premise, the lack of a functioning tag light, and to thus find that the state did not show that the officer had reasonable suspicion that the defendant had violated O.C.G.A. § 40-8-23(d). State v. Mathis, 338 Ga. App. 86, 789 S.E.2d 336 (2016).

Application to tractors.

- Former Code 1933, § 68E-204 (see now O.C.G.A. § 40-8-23) did not apply to tractors unless the tractor is equipped with an electric lighting system. Southeastern Liquid Fertilizer Co. v. Mock, 92 Ga. App. 270, 88 S.E.2d 531 (1955).

Probable cause shown to stop/arrest defendant for violation.

- Deputy sheriff was entitled to qualified immunity with respect to the plaintiff's federal civil rights claims, which were properly dismissed on summary judgment, because the plaintiff did not show that the deputy violated the plaintiff's constitutional rights; the deputy had probable cause to stop the plaintiff for a tag-light violation under O.C.G.A. § 40-8-23(d), and that probable cause was sufficient to permit the deputy to arrest the plaintiff for that violation. Plaintiff's refusal to comply with the deputy's instructions as well as plaintiff's belligerent and confrontational behavior, provided ample probable cause to arrest plaintiff for violating O.C.G.A. § 16-10-24; finally, the use of a taser gun in effectuating the plaintiff's arrest was reasonably proportionate to the difficult, tense, and uncertain situation that the deputy faced, and did not constitute excessive force. Draper v. Reynolds, 369 F.3d 1270 (11th Cir.), cert. denied, 543 U.S. 988, 125 S. Ct. 507, 160 L. Ed. 2d 373 (2004).

Because the arresting officer had probable cause for an initial stop of the defendant based on observing a non-functioning tag light on the defendant's vehicle, and once the vehicle was lawfully stopped, the officer was allowed to ask for consent to search the car, the Court of Appeals rejected the defendant's claims of error regarding those issues as support for granting a motion for a directed verdict as to a violation of O.C.G.A. §§ 16-10-24 and40-8-23. Hampton v. State, 287 Ga. App. 896, 652 S.E.2d 915 (2007).

Negligence per se instruction not supported by evidence.

- When a driver collided with a second driver's stalled truck, it was error for the trial court to instruct the jury on negligence per se in relation to O.C.G.A. § 40-6-202 as the charge was not supported by the evidence; the highway was in a rural area, the second driver had not been driving without lights, but lost illumination when the vehicle's engine failed, and there was no evidence that the second driver "parked" the truck, but that the truck came to a stop of the truck's own volition. White v. Scott, 284 Ga. App. 87, 643 S.E.2d 356 (2007).

Cited in Southern Bakeries Co. v. White, 103 Ga. App. 146, 118 S.E.2d 724 (1961); Beadles v. Bowen, 106 Ga. App. 34, 126 S.E.2d 254 (1962); Mathis v. Patrick, 109 Ga. App. 376, 136 S.E.2d 166 (1964); Rogers v. State, 131 Ga. App. 136, 205 S.E.2d 901 (1974); Phillips v. State, 162 Ga. App. 471, 291 S.E.2d 776 (1982); Navicky v. State, 245 Ga. App. 284, 537 S.E.2d 740 (2000); Kohlmeier v. State, 289 Ga. App. 709, 658 S.E.2d 261 (2008); Maloy v. State, 293 Ga. App. 648, 667 S.E.2d 688 (2008).


Am. Jur. 2d.

- 7A Am. Jur. 2d, Automobiles and Highway Traffic, §§ 205, 207.

Defective or Improperly Operated Taillights, 22 POF2d 225.


- 60 C.J.S., Motor Vehicles, §§ 18, 43 et seq. 60A C.J.S., Motor Vehicles, §§ 625 et seq., 697, 698, 791. 61 C.J.S., Motor Vehicles, §§ 1077 et seq., 1153 et seq., 1258 et seq. 61A C.J.S., Motor Vehicles, §§ 1385 et seq., 1470.


- Validity and construction of regulations as to automobile lights, 78 A.L.R. 815.

Contributory negligence of driver or occupant of motor vehicle driven without lights or with defective or inadequate lights, 67 A.L.R.2d 118; 62 A.L.R.3d 560; 62 A.L.R.3d 771; 62 A.L.R.3d 844.

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