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The American Automobile Association (AAA) has released a study on newly-licensed
teenage drivers. Because teen drivers are more frequently involved in
wrecks than other drivers, AAA observed the teens to spot risky driving
behaviors. In addition to publishing the study,
Distracted Driving Among Newly Licensed Teen Drivers, AAA also released video clips of teenagers driving. Most of the clips
were pulled from the study.

As part of the study, AAA mounted cameras on the front windshields of the
cars the teenagers would be driving. The cameras took video in two directions,
out the front windshield, as well as into the car.

I am doing a series in which I analyze these clips as an Alpharetta car
wreck lawyer, looking specifically at how Georgia law might apply to the
risky behavior of these teens.

One of the most disturbing clips, to me, is the one AAA entitled:
“Joy Ride on Dirt.” In that video, a teenage driver and his friend are bouncing along a dirt
road at a relatively high rate of speed. In the open flatbed of the truck,
you can see several other kids bouncing around crazily, even being thrown
up above the walls of the open pickup truck bed. The driver and his friend
are laughing at what is happening.

In analyzing this clip, I am going to start with this question: Was it
legal under Georgia law for him to have passengers riding in the back
bed of the pickup truck?

The answer is a not-so-firm, wishy-washy – well, it all depends.
Georgia has a statute that says:

“It shall be unlawful for any person under the age of 18 to ride
as a passenger in the uncovered bed of a pickup truck on any interstate
highway in this state.”

O.C.G.A. § 40-8-79. The Georgia statute makes it a misdemeanor for the driver to have passengers
in his pickup truck, but does not specify any penalty for the passenger
who is riding in the flatbed of the pickup truck.

Applying this law to the video of the young driver that AAA has posted,
it seems very unlikely that the young driver has violated Georgia law
by having these riders in the open bed of his pickup truck. Of course,
it is impossible to tell from the video whether the passengers in the
back of the truck are under the age of 18. Certainly based on the age
of the driver, it seems very possible that these young riders are under
18, and therefore they are potentially illegal passengers under the statute.
However, the video shows that the teen driver is riding on a dirt road,
and not on an interstate. Therefore, however unwise it may have been,
it was not per se illegal under Georgia law for the young man to have
people riding in the flatbed of his pickup truck. The good part is that
none of these kids was hurt. As a
Georgia personal injury lawyer, I am relieved that not one of these kids or their parents had to come
to my office after a catastrophic car wreck.

But as parents, we think through the “what ifs”, because this
scenario could so easily have turned horrible. What if this scene in fact
had become an Atlanta catastrophic car wreck? The boy is driving fast,
over very rugged terrain. The passengers are being bounced up, and then
crashing down, onto hard metal. A kid could have popped out of the bed
of the pickup truck and whacked his head on the hard dirt ground. If the
terrain were rugged enough, the truck could have flipped. At the very
least, being bounced around in the back of the truck could not have been
good for the kids’ backs, heads, or for that matter, their general

But hold on! It may have been illegal for the driver to have had that many
people in his pickup truck, period. I’ll talk about that in another entry.


Lee’s peers have named her a Georgia SuperLawyer every year for two decades.