By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
HPD says put the phone away, even at red light

Just because you’re stopped at a red light doesn’t mean you can start looking at your phone, Hinesville Police officers said.

Hinesville officers reviewed new, and existing, traffic laws for city council members, including some laws that have been in effect for years that motorists continue to break. Lt Scott Hensler, the HPD traffic commander, and Star Cpl. Michael Ramirez, the HPD’s traffic supervisor, detailed the 10 most frequent questions drivers have in Hinesville about the traffic laws.

Ramirez said drivers often ask why they are getting cited for using a mobile or wireless device when stopped at a traffic signal. State law forbids the use of mobile and wireless devices while driving, even when stopped at a traffic signal or a stop sign.

Cpl. Ramirez pointed out the law states drivers cannot hold or support, with any part of their body, a cell phone while driving. Motorists also cannot send or read a text nor can they watch any video other than those relating to a GPS function.

Drivers also ask about getting pulled over for speed infractions, and often tell officers they thought they had a 10 mph buffer from the speed limit, Cpl. Ramirez said. Under state law, speed limits on state highways are 30 mph in urban or residential areas, 35 mph on unpaved county roads, unless otherwise designated, and 65 mph on fully divided highways, 65 mph on interstates in urbanized areas and 70 mph on interstates in rural areas. Otherwise, the speed limit on state highways is 55 mph “The speed limits do not apply in school zones, marked historic districts and residential areas. The speed limit is just that – a speed limit,” Cpl. Ramirez said. “It is the speed that road was designed to support, given traffic and ideal driving conditions.”

HPD officials stated there is no wording in the state law that enables drivers to exceed posted speed limits. Cpl. Ramirez said city, county and campus police officers, when using a speed detection device, such as radar, cannot make a case for speeding if the violation is not more than 10 mph over the posted limit “so that the agency does not get designated a speed trap” by state law.

Cpl. Ramirez said the department gets a lot of “come on out” crashes, where a driver, coming out of a side street or private drive onto a larger road, has one lane of traffic stopped to let them enter. But the second lane of traffic, such as on General Screven Way, may not see them and continues. The driver coming out of the side street or private drive gets cited for failure to yield.

“The other lanes, they’re not required to stop. They may not see that driver,” Cpl. Ramirez said.

Lt. Hensler also said drivers cannot use the turning lane, such as the one on Highway 84, as a merging point.

“The center lane is designed for vehicles turning off the highway, not turning onto the highway,” he said.

Drivers using the center lane to turn off the highway also cannot drive in it for more than 300 feet.

Georgia’s “Move Over” Law also has become frequently broken. While signs on highways entering the state declare Georgia as a move over law state, some motorists on its roads remain unaware of its existence or meaning.

The law has to do with drivers passing stationary emergency vehicles, including fire, law enforcement and EMS, service and utility, highway maintenance and towing and recovery vehicles with their lights activated.

“If they are able to get into the adjacent lane of travel, they are required to move over into that lane,” Cpl. Ramirez said.

However, if a driver cannot safely move into an adjacent lane, they are required to slow down under the posted speed limit to a safe and prudent speed.

“That way that driver can react in a safe and controlled manner and not cause another accident,” Cpl. Ramirez said.

Cpl. Ramirez also offered the reminder that drivers cannot make a right turn on a red arrow, unless permitted by other signs.

“If it is permitted, you can only do when it is safe to do so and yield to oncoming traffic,” he said.

State law now has reverted to an easier to understand rule on passing stopped school buses, Cpl. Ramirez said.

Drivers meeting or overtaking a school bus stopped on the highway must stop and remain stopped until the bus resumes motion or the signals are no longer active. If the bus is on the other side of a highway that has a grass median or a physical barrier, they are not required to stop.

“But they still must exercise some amount of caution,” Cpl. Ramirez said.

The center turn lane on Oglethorpe Highway, for instance, Cpl. Ramirez said, is not a physical barrier.

The state’s “Slow Poke” law means drivers in the passing lane who may be impeding a reasonable flow of traffic must move over. Drivers in the passing lane who know they are about to get passed or have a reasonable expectation of getting passed also must move over.

It is also against the law to drive in what is known as the gore, a striped area between two lanes of traffic, even when approaching a turn signal.

U-turns are not allowed on a curve or on a crest of hill, where it cannot be seen by both directions of traffic, where it is unsafe or impedes traffic or where it is posted as being prohibited.

Lt. Hensler noted a new law that deals with what are known was off highway multipurpose vehicles, such as ATVs or side by sides. The new law will allow for the registration of those kinds of vehicles. However, they cannot be driven on state highways and currently they are not permitted on city streets.

Those vehicles must be able to maintain a speed of 25-65 mph, be no more than 80 inches wide, have a steering wheel, safety belts, a non-straddle seat, headlights, tail lights, brake lights and rear view mirrors. They also must travel on at least four wheels, have insurance and be operated by a licensed driver.

Those vehicles are allowed on a county road system with a speed limit of no more than 35 mph.

“They can cross a city street but cannot operate on a city street,” Lt. Hensler said.

Sign up for our e-newsletters