Additional laws apply to you whenever you drive with a child in your vehicle.
For example, Georgia's O.C.G.A. § 40-8-76 states that all children under the age of eight must be restrained in an appropriate child passenger safety seat. To satisfy the statute's requirements, the car seat must be in the rear seat, be appropriate for the child's weight and height, be used according to the manufacturer's instructions, and must meet all U.S. federal standards.
The statute does have exceptions. First, it does not apply to children riding in taxis or buses. Second, it carves out an exception for children with special medical conditions that prevent the required restraints. Finally, children of a specified height are exempt from the statute's requirements.
First time O.C.G.A. § 40-8-76 violators will be fined up to $50.00, and subsequent offenses carry a fine of up to $100.00. More importantly, a violation is associated with points on your driver's license. One point is assessed for a first violation, and two points are assessed for each subsequent offense.
Another law that applies to children passengers is O.C.G.A. § 40-8-79, which governs pickup trucks. This law prohibits any passenger age of 18-years-old from riding in the back of a pickup truck. Violating this law is a misdemeanor offense in Georgia. If convicted, you can be sentenced up to 12 months in jail and fined up to $1000.00.
A far more serious offense is an O.C.G.A. § 40-6-391(a)(I) violation. Under O.C.G.A. § 40-6-391(a)(I), a person who drives under the influence of drugs or alcohol while transporting in a motor vehicle a child under the age of 14 years is guilty of the separate offense of endangering a child by driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This offense will not merge, or combine, with a DUI charge.
Rather, courts treat a child endangerment charge like an additional DUI charge. Further, the law explicitly allows for individuals to be charged with multiple counts of child endangerment, even if the charges arise out of the same incident. As a result, for each child in the car, a DUI driver will be charged with one additional DUI per child.
The functional result of this is that if you are charged with your first DUI and you had two children in the car with you, you are facing the very alarming prospect of being labeled a Habitual Violator. If you are declared an H.V. you will face a mandatory license suspension of 5 years, with at least the first 2 years having no hardship license or permit whatsoever.
These laws were all enacted with the aim of protecting children on our roadways. Motor vehicle injuries are a leading cause of death among children in the United States. Thus, the courts take these offenses seriously.
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