Scholle Law helps the families of kids hurt in car, truck, boat, motorcycle and DUI endangerment accidents
Car, truck, motorcycle and boat cases involving children are frequent in the state of Georgia, despite the many safety devices required by law such as properly fitted and installed seat belts, booster seats, car seats and helmets to protect children in the event of an accident or crash.
In the more than 20 years we’ve represented individuals and families in Atlanta and across the state of Georgia, it has never gotten easier to hear about the serious injuries that my clients have endured and must recover from. While the entire Scholle Law team is empathetic to all of our injured clients, no lawyer ever forgets that awful feeling that accompanies hearing about serious injuries sustained by a child.
Common accident-related injuries that children experience
Children injured in motor vehicle accidents—including car, truck, motorcycle and boat accidents—often suffer the brunt of the injuries compared to other adults or older people that were also in the vehicle. We’ve seen significant injuries in these cases where a child has suffered:
- Broken bones
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBI)
- Road rash
- Catastrophic injuries after being ejected from a car, bike, truck or boat
No one can predict an accident, but in our experience many of the injured children who are seriously injured in motor vehicle accidents could have been better protected had their parents or guardians followed the laws regarding car seats, seatbelts, helmets and booster seats.
Additionally, we’ve seen child passengers injured in DUI accidents caused by their parents or guardians—accidents that could have absolutely been prevented.
Georgia laws for child passenger safety
The state of Georgia is serious about enforcing the rules and regulations that are in place for children passengers riding in cars, trucks, boats and motorcycles. There are rules regarding where a child can sit in a vehicle, how big (weight and height) a child must be to be in a booster seat versus a shoulder restraint, and there are the all-encompassing seat belt laws in place that require all children to be secured by a seat belt or car seat.
The bottom line:
In Georgia, there are many protections in place meant to protect child passengers.
Children are often among the most injured accident victims due to improper seat belt use, car seat installation and other failures that lead to them being ejected during a collision. Adhering to basic safety principles will not necessarily prevent motor vehicle accidents involving children, but they will provide the child with the best opportunity for maximum safety and injury prevention in the event of a serious crash or wreck.
Cases involving child passengers can be difficult and will often be accompanied by issues with extensive medical bills. If you have questions about such cases, then we encourage you to speak to an experienced Georgia personal injury lawyer at Scholle Law to discuss your options for providing your child with the best recovery possible.
Seatbelts, car seats and booster seats in cars and trucks
Most cars and trucks in Georgia are considered passenger vehicles. A passenger vehicle is allowed to carry 10 people or less. Regarding child passengers, Georgia law breaks them into 2 groups: passengers aged 8 to 17, and infants and children under the age of 8.
For the children aged 8 to 17, these passengers are allowed to sit in the front seat of the vehicle with a seatbelt and they are required to wear a seat belt whether they are in the front, rear or back (vehicle with a 3rd row).
Children under the age of 8 are required to be in a car seat or a booster seat. The appropriate types of seats for these children will depend on each child’s height, weight and age. In some vehicles, there may not be a 2nd row or back seat option. (This is true with some pickup trucks and other vehicles.) In the case of no rear seating option, children under 8 may sit in the front out of necessity.
In the case of a child who is not old enough to sit in the front but is 4’9” or taller and weighs 40 pounds or more, they may wear a normal seat belt without the need for an alternate belting or seating device.
A common question relating specifically to pickup trucks is whether or not child passengers may legally ride in the open bed of a pickup truck. In Georgia, the law states that any persons under the age of 18 are NOT permitted to ride in the open bed of a pickup truck or trailer.
In the case of vehicles that only have lap belts instead of over the shoulder belts, children 40 pounds and above may use a lap-style seat belt.
Infants and children 8 and younger must be properly secured in a car seat. The seat must be appropriate for the child’s height and weight, and be approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Typically, the issues of when a child is big enough to leave a car seat for a booster—or when the car seat should be rear-facing versus forward-facing—will depend on the seat manufacturer’s recommendations. Georgia law does not explicitly say what age a child must be to be in a booster, nor does state law say what weight a child must be to change from a rear-facing position to a forward-facing position.
If you’d like to read the actual text of the Georgia statutes where this information can be found, look to the Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety website.
Children as motorcycle passengers
Georgia laws regarding motorcycle passengers are limited. All motorcycle riders in Georgia must wear a helmet, which includes drivers and passengers. When carrying a passenger in Georgia on a motorcycle, the bike must have a seat large enough to fit the driver and passenger.
Motorcycle passengers are required to sit behind the driver and sit as close to the front/forward as they can. Passengers are not allowed to sit in front of the motorcycle driver under any circumstance. Carrying a passenger on a bike is only allowed if the bike is equipped with footrests for the passenger.
Additionally, the motorcycle should have handholds or straps for the passenger to hold on to. The passenger is also permitted to hold onto the driver’s waist, hips and belt.
Children as passengers on Georgia boats
Georgia boating laws are also limited regarding rules and regulations geared to children. The 2 most relevant rules and regulations relating to child boat passengers relates to flotation devices and how old someone must be in order to legally operate a vessel.
Georgia law requires that all children under the age of 13 wear a United State Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device while onboard any moving vessel. There is an exception for a child riding in a fully enclosed cabin.
As far as age of operation, children 12 or younger cannot operate any boats 16 feet or longer unless they are accompanied by a competent adult and the motor is 30 horsepower or less. Teens age 12-15 cannot legally operate any vessel 16 feet or longer, but they can operate a personal watercraft or a vehicle less than 16 feet in length if they have passed a boating education course approved by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources—or if they are accompanied by a competent adult.
Minors 16 and older can operate any boat in Georgia as long as they are carrying proper identification.
Georgia child endangerment cases
While Georgia child endangerment charges involve criminal law and our law firm’s practice is in civil law, it is still important to acknowledge that injured child passengers are often involved in DUI motor vehicle accidents caused by their own parent, guardian or driver of the vehicle they were riding in.
Georgia’s law on child endangerment says that anyone who is transporting a child under the age of 14 years old while violating the state’s DUI statute is guilty of endangering a child. There are severe penalties for violating the DUI statute and for also being found guilty of child endangerment. These penalties can range from monetary fines, loss of driving privileges and even jail.
Making child passengers safer: basic safety tips
As an injury law firm, we strive to make communities in Georgia safer. We seek to accomplish this goal by not only holding negligent people accountable through claims and lawsuits, but also sharing important safety information.
While some of these recommendations may seem obvious, we believe that any information that can help prevent an injury is important information worth sharing:
- Teach your children early about the dangers of drunk driving. Let them know that there is nothing wrong with refusing to get into the car with someone who they suspect has had too much to drink. Teach them that it is unacceptable to ride with someone who is intoxicated.
- Teach your children that seat belts are 100 percent necessary and there is no reason not to wear one. Set a good example and make sure that they always see you wearing a seat belt when they are in a vehicle with you.
- Follow the laws and regulations regarding proper seating based on age, weight and height. These policies and laws are put in place for a purpose. If your child is too young to sit in the front, don’t bend or break the rules. If your child isn’t tall or heavy enough to sit with a regular shoulder belt, don’t let them—make them use a booster.
- If your child is going to be on a boat, make sure that they are wearing a personal flotation device. It’s not just the law, it is for their own safety. Boating accidents can be extremely dangerous. Many people think that injuries in boat accidents are mainly from collisions, but there are plenty of situations where a life jacket has saved someone’s life after they have fallen overboard or been knocked out of the boat after a collision with another craft or object.
- Check that car seats are properly installed. If you have small children (infants/toddlers) that sit in rear or front-facing car seats, make sure that the seats are installed per the manufacturer’s directions. If you have questions about how to do this, there are local organizations such as fire departments and other law enforcement agencies that will help you install them for free. A quick internet search should show multiple resources near you for getting this kind of help.
- If your child is going to be a passenger on a motorcycle or is old enough to operate one, make sure that they wear a helmet. This is one of those safety tips that should be obvious, but there are plenty of people who do not obey this law. Make sure that your child understands the importance of wearing a helmet.
- Teach your kids about the dangers of distracted driving. Teach your kids the importance of staying focused on the road. Not only is this a good tip for them to know for their own driving future, but it’s also a good safety tip for your own drive. Kids in the car are frequently doing things that can take a driver’s attention away from the road. Maybe you are handing something to your child in the backseat or your kids are bickering loudly with their siblings. Whatever the distraction, it may cause the driver to take their focus from the road. Teach them to let the driver focus on the road. This is easier said than done, but an important lesson nonetheless.
When to consult an Atlanta accident attorney
When children are injured as passengers in accidents, it often involves serious injuries. In Georgia, children in passenger vehicles should be sitting in the proper place and—if they are under certain ages, weights and heights—they need to be in their booster seats or car seats.
Children passengers injured on boats or motorcycles are not as common as injured child passengers from car and truck accidents, but they can still be serious, catastrophic and even deadly when they do happen. Just because boats and motorcycles may not have the same clearly defined rules and regulations for their child passengers, does not mean that boaters and motorcyclists can operate with child passengers in any manner that they choose.
It’s a good idea for parents of children who will be on boats or motorcycles to have discussions with them regarding safety and why it is important to be safe on all vehicles. Adhering to the rules, focusing on safety, and never drinking and driving (with or without a child passenger) are all good principles that can make children safer while riding on the roads and waters in Georgia.
If you, your child or a loved one are injured in a car, truck or motorcycle accident in Georgia, you will most likely have an uphill battle in dealing with the other party, parties or their insurance company(s). At Scholle Law, our Atlanta car and truck accident attorneys fully understand Georgia law when it comes to being involved in an accident. We know that you are going to have questions and we understand that there will be issues that need to be carefully explained to you.
We are here to answer your questions and make sure that you have all the information you need as you move forward with your accident case.