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Georgia Speeding Laws 

There are two basic categories of speeding offenses: too fast for conditions and speeding in violation of minimum or maximum limits. In these days of radar and laser speed detection devices, the latter is the more common violation.

It is worth noting, however, that speeding can be charged even when the speed being traveled is not known precisely and even where the speed is below the otherwise applicable maximum limits. This would typically be charged as too fast for conditions.

Too Fast For Conditions

O.C.G.A. § 40-6-180 directs that no person shall drive at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the conditions and having regard for the actual and potential hazards then existing.
Examples of conditions that might require a lesser speed include approaching and crossing an intersection or railroad grade crossing, approaching and going around a curve, when approaching and traversing a hill crest, when traveling a narrow or winding roadway, or when special hazards exist with respect to pedestrians or other traffic by reason of weather or highway conditions.

This is an interesting statute because it is not constitutional on its own. For the charge to be valid, the officer must identify sufficient criteria to meet constitutional requirements. Bilbrey v. State, 254 Ga. 629, 331 S.E.2d 551 (1985). This means that the State must identify the conditions which caused the need for a lower speed and an estimate of the speed of the vehicle.

Many, many officers are unaware of the need to provide an estimate of speed and to identify the condition that made driving that speed unsafe.

However, it is worth noting that most officers will be of the view that they are doing the driver a favor by charging them with too fast for conditions instead of a speeding offense, since too fast for conditions carries no points for a Georgia licensee.

Speeding below Maximum Limits

O.C.G.A. § 40-6-184 provides three means of charging a driver of driving too slowly.

The first is referred to as impeding traffic flow. Basically, a driver cannot drive so slowly as to impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic, except when that is necessary for safe operation.

The second is driving a speed below that posted on a minimum limits sign. The commissioner of public safety and the commissioner of transportation can set a minimum speed limit based on engineering and traffic investigations. The most common place that such signage will be found will be on major state highways or on interstate highways. Where such minimum limits are posted, it would be an offense to drive at a speed below the posted minimum except when it was necessary for safe operation. So, for instance, the minimum limit might be 45 m.p.h. but a driver encountering heavy fog or smoke or pounding rain or snow and ice could be justified in driving well below that limit.

The third way of being charged with driving too slowly is to violate what is known as the “slow poke” law. This law applies on roads, streets or highways with two or more lanes traveling in the same direction. Where the motorist is driving in a direction that has two or more lanes devoted to that direction, it would be an offense to drive in the passing lane so as to block drivers overtaking the driver from the rear at a higher rate of speed. This law applies even if the motorist is driving the speed limit and the overtaking driver is speeding. Passing lane means the most left hand lane other than a high occupancy vehicle lane. There are some exceptions to this provision including: when traffic conditions or congestion make it necessary to drive in the passing lane, hen inclement weather, obstructions or hazards make it necessary to drive in the passign lane, when compliance with a law of this state or an official traffic control device make it necessary to drive in the passing lane, when a vehicle must be in the leftmost lane to exit the highway or turn left, on toll roads when necessary to pay the toll or use a pass. It also does not apply to authorized emergency vehicles engaged in official duties or to vehicles engaged in highway maintenance and construction operations.

Speeding above Maximum Limits

O.C.G.A. § 40-6-181 is our starting point. Basically, no person shall drive a vehicle at a speed in excess of a maximum limit.

Posted Limits

Your best bet to determine the speed limit is posted signs.

Unposted Limits

However, where signs are absent, O.C.G.A. § 40-6-181(b) sets limits imposed based on the characteristics of the roadway. Those are thirty miles per hour in an urban or residential district, thirty-five miles per hour on an unpaved county road, seventy miles per hour on a federal interstate highway except inside urbanized areas with populations greater than 50,000, sixty-five miles per hour on divided highways lacking full access control if signs allow that speed limit, and fifty-five miles per hour otherwise.

This Code section causes confusion for some people. They look at it and think that the only allowable limits are 30, 35, 55, 65 and 70 miles per hour. That is wrong. Subsection (c) makes it clear that the maximum speed may be altered as authorized in O.C.G.A. §§ 40-6-182, 40-6-183 and 40-6-188.

Process for Establishing Speed Limits

O.C.G.A. § 40-6-182 permits the commissioner of public safety or the commissioner of transportation can jointly set lower speed limits for a particular road or highway. That decision must be based on an engineering or traffic investigation which demonstrates that the conditions of that particular road or intersection require a different maximum limit for safety. Where such action is taken, appropriate speed limit signs may be posted, whether the change in limit is fixed or variable.

In addition, local authorities including incorporated municipalities and counties may also alter the speed limits based on similar evidence, engineering or traffic investigation that determines that the default speed limit is greater than is reasonable or safe based on conditions found to exist on the roadway within its jurisdiction. Particularly, speed limits can be decreased at intersections, decreased in areas outside an urban or residential district (but not less than 30 mph), decrease in an area within an urban or residential district (but not less than 25 mph), or decrease on account of a special hazard or condition. The authority can also increased a speed limit for an urban district, but no higher than 55 mph. Again, appropriate signs must be erected. No more than six alterations in speed limit may be made within a one mile stretch of road, and the difference between such alterations can be no more than 10 miles per hour (except near schools, where the difference can be no more than 20 miles per hour).

Where highway work is occurring, the Department of Transportation or the county or city which is conducting the work may designate a segment of highway, road or street as a highway work zone and may erect signs designating the speed limit for the zone and that speeding violations within the zone are subject to increased penalties. O.C.G.A. § 40-6-188. For a person to be cited or convicted based on the highway work zone, there need to be workers present or barriers,

Speeding Law

It is worth noting that the actual speed alleged against the driver is not considered a material element of the offense. If the evidence at trial establishes a lesser speed than charged, but the speed established is still in excess of the limit, the State's case does not fail because of the variation. Jones v. State, 258 Ga. App. 337, 574 S.E.2d 398 (2002); Porter v. State, 290 Ga. App. 113, 658 S.E.2d 893 (2008).  This means that if the officer charges you with driving 90 mph in a 70 mph zone, and the judge or jury finds that the evidence shows that you were actually going 80 mph in a 70 mph, you can still be convicted of speeding at the 80 mph level.

Citation Requirements

O.C.G.A. § 40-6-187 requires that any violation of a speeding regulation in Chapter 6 of Title 40 must specify (1) the speed at which the defendant driver is alleged to have driven, (2) the maximum speed limit where the driving is alleged to have occurred, and whether the violation occurred on a two lane road or a highway.

The sentence imposed by the court must include a finding as to the specific amount by which the person convicted exceeded the speed limit.

How Speed is Established

The State must lay the foundation for the method used by the officer to determine the speed of the vehicle. There are actually multiple methods for establishing a vehicle's speed including visual estimate, pacing, as well as radar and laser detectors.

Radar/Laser Speed Detection

For a law enforcement agency to operate radar or laser speed detectors, the governing authority for the agency must have a permit from the Georgia Department of Public Safety to use such devices. Such devices must be operated in accordance with the requirements of Article 2 of Chapter 14 of Title 40.

Such a permit is not authorized where the officers of the department are paid on a fee system. I am not aware of any departments in Georgia using such a payment system.  At this time, I am not aware of any law enforcement agency in Georgia still using the fee system.

To qualify for the permit, the agency-applicant must provide law enforcement services by certified peace officers 24 hours a day, seven days a week on call or on duty or allows only peace officers employed full-time by the agency to operate speed detection devices. O.C.G.A. § 40-14-2.

To operate a speed detection device under the permit, the officer must be an employee of the agency, be registered or certified as a peace officer by the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council and certified by POST to operate the speed detection device. O.C.G.A. § 40-14-2.

The permit specifies the streets, roads and highways within the geographic boundaries of the agency's territory on which the devices may be operated. O.C.G.A. § 40-14-3.

Punishment for Speeding

Speeding is a misdemeanor in Georgia. As such, it generally carries a punishment which can range up to 12 months of incarceration and a $1,000 fine. Obviously, most court dispositions of speeding offenses involve no jail time and lower than the maximum fine.

Courts have great discretion to determine the fine for speeding offenses. Many choose to use a schedule of fees based on the number of miles above the speed limit that the driver is found to be traveling. In some cases, the court may require probation. The court may also require defensive driving courses, drug and alcohol risk reduction programs, victim impact programs, or community service.

First Georgia Speeding Offense

In the case of a first lifetime Georgia speeding offense, the legislature in 2001 imposed some maximum fines. This schedule is as follows: 1-4 miles over, $0; 5-10 miles over, $25; 10-14 miles over, $100; 15-18 miles over, $125; 19-23 miles over, $150; and 24-33 miles over, $500.

It is worth noting that most courts that I have had contact with do not have any system in place to determine whether a particular speeding ticket is a first speeding offense for the driver. It is likely that many drivers do not get the benefit of this law change in having their speeding fine reduced.

This provision would not prevent a court from imposing jail time or probation on a first speeding offense. Jones v. State, 308 Ga. App. 99, 706 S.E.2d 593 (2011).

It is also worth noting that the determination of whether a particular offense is a first speeding offense should be limited to a review of the driver's Georgia record since the determination is based on violations of the Georgia statutory provision and does not incorporate similar violations under the laws of other states.

In most cases that I deal with, there are other considerations which are more significant than the fine, such as license points and insurance consequences.

Super Speeder

Beginning in 2009, Georgia has an additional penalty for speeding drivers.

Regardless of the fines and fees and other penalties imposed by a local court, the State of Georgia will impose and collect a fee of $200 for any driver who is convicted of driving at a speed of 85 miles per hour on any road or highway or who is convicted of driving at a speed of 75 miles per hour or more on a two-lane road or highway.

Written notification of the fee imposition will be sent to the driver upon the Department of Drivers Services receiving the qualifying ticket and notice of conviction. Failure to pay the fee within 90 days will result in the suspension of the driver's license (in the case of a Georgia licensed driver) or driving privileges within the state (in the case of a driver licensed by any other state). Lifting the suspension requires the payment of the fee plus an additional $50 reinstatement fee. Non-Georgia drivers should be aware that most states will suspend your license upon notification that Georgia has suspended your privileges.

The best way to deal with Super Speeder is to seek a disposition which causes your offense of conviction to fall outside the Super Speeder parameters.

Sean A. Black

Sean A. Black is a 1992 graduate of the Emory University School of Law. He has been in private practice in Toccoa, Georgia since June 1, 1992.

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