General Information

Oaths of Office: Sheriffs, Deputies, and Jailers (and a rant)

One of the things that I like about this blog software is that I get to see what search terms are leading readers here.  Sometimes these search terms inspire a new posting, and this is one of those instances.  I have gotten quite a few hits lately seeking information on the oath of office for Sheriffs and Deputies.  Please note that the oath is the same for Sheriffs and Deputies alike:




I, ____________ do swear that I will faithfully execute all writs, precepts and processes directed to me as Deputy Sheriff of the County, or which are directed to all Sheriffs of this State, or to any other Sheriff specially, I can lawfully execute and true returns make, and in all things well and truly, without malice or partiality, perform the duties of the office of Deputy Sheriff of Oconee County, during my continuance therein, and take only my lawful fees.

I do further swear that I am not the holder of any unaccounted for public money due this State, political subdivision or authority thereof, that I am not the holder of any office of trust under the government of the United States (except Postmaster), nor either of the several States, nor any foreign State, and that I am otherwise qualified to hold said office according to the Constitution laws of Georgia, and that I will support the Constitution of the United States and of this State.  So help me God.

Signed: …………………………………………….

Sworn to and subscribed before me, this ___  day of _____________


Sheriff, Scott R. Berry

Oconee County Georgia

Jailers also take an oath of office; so, I have included it here as well.   A Deputy Sheriff who is assigned to the jail takes the oath of office for both positions.


Oconee County Sheriff’s Office


 I, _____________,do swear that I will, well and truly do and perform, all and singular, the duties of jailer for the County of Oconee; and that I will humanely treat prisoners who may be brought to the jail of which I am keeper and not suffer them to escape by any negligence or inattention of mine, so help me God.


Signed: _____________________ Date:______________



Scott R. Berry , Sheriff

Personnel who are hired initially to work in a jail have six months from their date of employment to complete an 80 hour Basic Jail School.  In order to become a certified peace officer, those personnel must complete the 408 hour Basic Law Enforcement Training Course.  If a person is already certified as a peace officer and gets assigned to a jail, they have six months to get certified as a Jailer.

Now, for one of life’s little injustices, Deputies are eligible for the Peace Officer’s Annuity Benefit Fund (POAB).  Jailers are not.  So, a Deputy assigned to the jail is eligible for POAB, but a Jailer doing the exact same job is not.  Why?  Because the State of Georgia says so, that’s why.  It should be noted that the State has seen fit to include state correctional officers in POAB but not Jailers.

From Subjects to Citizens

A few hundred years ago, there was a prevailing political theory that asserted that certain men should have dominion over all others. They claimed this power was a divine right bestowed upon them and their posterity and that any disobedience to their rule equated to defying the very will of God. Individual merit, talent, or achievement meant nothing. Morality meant nothing. Sound judgement meant nothing. All it took to rule was to be the closest living blood relative to previous occupant of the big chair.

A counterpoint view began to emerge that man possessed inalienable individual rights and that government not haveing the consent of the governed was not legitimate. In order to stamp out this political theory, a king sent forth his troops to seize the very means to resist from those who opposed him.

Those that rejected absolutism resisted. They resisted with weapons exactly the equivalent of the arms being sent by those seeking to keep them subjugated. In fact, they actually captured the king’s cannon and used his own weapons against him.

Subjects became citizens. When the shooting was all over, those same men who had just fought a bloody war to achieve a new status and establish a new political order wrote a document outlining and limiting the power of government. Included in this document was an enumeration that the people have an un-infringed right to possess arms. These men had just used very same type of weapons that the king sent against them to defeat his forces. It does not stand to reason that they would enumerate such a statement and not intend for it not to follow through the ages along with the evolution of technology. That right was not frozen in 1791 just as the right to freedom of speech is not restricted to writing letters on parchment with a quill and sending it via horse and rider.

Now, let us move forward to a more modern age.

My grandfather was drafted into the Army for World War II and was sent to Italy to serve as an infantryman. He was issued a rifle and sent into battle.

In the 1960s, my father was in command of a National Guard unit that took part in protecting Civil Rights marches in Georgia.

In the days after the horrific events at a Connecticut elementary school, I put on my badge and uniform and stood in front of a local middle school with a not only a semi-automatic rifle close at hand but a select-fire fire weapon as well.

In the three examples above, each individual was receiving a government paycheck and was carrying the respective firearms in the service of the government.

Why was it acceptable to some for my grandfather to have fought in defense of his country with a rifle while using that same rifle to protect his wife and children is considered wrong by some people? Why was it acceptable to some for my father to carry a rifle to defend the civil rights movement while possessing that same rifle to protect his wife and children is somehow wrong? Why was it acceptable for me to have a rifle at the ready to protect school children while having that same firearm to protect those that I hold dear is wrong?

Let us take that one step further. Does somehow being in the service of government grant a special dispensation of morality while only evil is bestowed upon the same rifle when in the hands of someone not receiving a government paycheck? I answer firmly in the negative. Are electricians, systems analysts, statisticians, or whatever else somehow devoid of the moral clarity to defend their own homes and families? Again, I answer firmly in the negative. Should they be restricted from having the very same tools as those they are being taxed to purchase for those whose salaries they are also being taxed to fund? No shocker here as I again answer firmly in the negative.

I end with this quote from Lt. Col. Jeff Cooper:

“The rifle itself has no moral stature, since it has no will of its own. Naturally, it may be used by evil men for evil purposes, but there are more good men than evil, and while the latter cannot be persuaded to the path of righteousness by propaganda, they can certainly be corrected by good men with rifles.”

Sheriff Proffitt: A Tribute and a Reminder

AUTHOR’S NOTE:  While this piece is open to all to read, it is written with my peace officer brethren in mind.

Herbert Proffitt was a veteran of the Korean War and had a 50-plus year career as a peace officer including stints as the Monroe County (KY) Sheriff and as the Tompkinsville (KY) Police Chief.  He retired initially in 2000 but later returned to the Sheriff’s Office serving as a Bailiff until 2009 when he retired again at the age of 79.

On August 28, 2012, Sheriff Proffitt was in his own driveway getting his mail when a thug he had arrested numerous times dating back to the 1970s (allegedly) ambushed and murdered him. Several accounts that I have read assert that the thug had the citations from the first arrest in his possession when captured and that said thug is 81 years old.

Sheriff Proffitt survived being in the line of fire for well over half of a century only to get gunned down while doing something as mundane as walking out in his own driveway to get his mail years after he retired and by someone who has nursed a grudge for 40 years.  While all “officer down” stories are a tragedy this one is especially just plain wrong.  I am by no means asserting that evil doesn’t prey upon those outside of our profession, and while I do not want to sound overdramatic or bellicose, this incident is a reminder to all whom it applies that your life changed forever the first time that you pinned on a badge, and your vigilance shouldn’t, and can’t, stop when you are off duty, when you are with your families, when you are retired, or any other time for that matter.

As a rookie cop in a fairly populous area, I thought that I could meander about during my off-time completely anonymously when out of uniform.  I learned quickly that I was wrong as one night while dining in a restaurant, I looked over at the next table only to see an individual who was convicted that very day on a charge that I had made against him.  Incidentally, it was the first arrest that I had made after completing field training.  Since that night I have not left my home, even to walk out to get the mail, unarmed.  It is not that I live my life in fear; it is that I adopted a mindset that night that I would never be caught without the ability to protect myself and those that I hold dear, and I stress that the most important tool for self protection is awareness more than anything else (regardless of profession).  This includes being choosy about off duty activities and where you do them.

It may seem like an annoyance to carry at times, but to borrow a line from Unforgiven, don’t get killed for a lack of shooting back.

Firearms Registration in Georgia

Perhaps I should have titled this piece “There Is No Firearms Registration in Georgia” because that is the case.  Please understand that this piece is not an argument in favor of or a call for such a system.  It is simply informational.

Frequently, citizens will come by the Sheriff’s Office because they have lawfully received a firearm and want to “register” it. The fact of the matter is that there is no method or mechanism for firearms registration in Georgia.  There is no means to register a particular firearm to a particular person.

In a previous piece about the so-called “gun show loophole“, I discussed the fact that firearms sales by licensed dealers are governed by the same rules whether at a gun show or their normal place of business and that such sales by private citizens are governed by the same applicable laws governing private sales at any other time.  When a firearm passes through the hands of a licensed dealer and is transferred to another owner a form 4473 is completed.  This creates a record of the transaction but it does not “register” the firearm.  In Georgia, private parties can sell a firearms to other private parties without the transaction having to go through a federally licensed firearms dealer.  The laws concerning private sales vary from state to state.

When a gun is traced by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF); the agency is simply going through its records and checking for the form 4473.  This check will only be able to track the instances in which the firearm in question passed through the inventory of a licensed dealer.  It will not track legal transactions made by private parties in states where private parties can sell firearms without having to go through a licensed dealer.  Therefore, if a Georgia resident buys a firearm from a licensed dealer and then sells it in a private party transaction, an ATF trace would show the firearm having been transferred to the original purchaser alone.

While it is understandable that private citizens might confused on this subject, it is troublesome that apparently there are law enforcement agencies in Georgia that get this wrong.  I recently learned of a instance in Georgia in which an agency is refusing to return a recovered stolen firearm to its rightful owner. The agency returned the other recovered items to the victim, but they are withholding the firearm.  The reason they are giving is that the ATF trace shows the firearm as being “registered” to another individual.  I used the plural in the first sentence in this paragraph because I know of at least one other agency using a similar approach.

I wonder if they made the victim show proof of registration for the other items?  Why is it that some items that the victim possessed legally were stolen, recovered, and returned but an item that victim owned legally was stolen, recovered, but withheld?  This is a fundamentally illogical approach.

Senate Bill 308 and Traffic Direction

A recent report was aired by WMAZ out of Macon, Georgia, in which Bibb County School District Police Chief DeCoursey was purported as citing a 2010 revision to Georgia’s weapon carry laws as removing his officers’ authority to direct traffic on streets adjacent to campus properties. It should be noted that the original story at the link has been updated by WMAZ with comments from State Senator Mitch Seabaugh, the primary sponsor of the bill. The video at the link still airs in its original format.

I contacted State Representative Terry England concerning the story. Representative England was in the General Assembly in 2010, and he voted in favor of SB308. He told me that he did not believe that anything in the bill changed the jurisdiction of the campus police.

After viewing the report, I contacted Chief DeCoursey, and asked him to cite the provision in Senate Bill 308 that prohibited officers from directing traffic in front of schools. He cited section 1.4 of the bill and its change in the definition of the term “school safety zone”. He told me that the department’s legal counsel interpreted the definition of “school safety zone” as the jurisdictional boundary for his agency and that the change brought about by the code section revision thus in turn limited his agency’s jurisdiction to the real property boundaries actual campus properties.

I want to make it clear that the conversation was respectful and courteous on both sides and that Chief DeCoursey did not at any time express any opposition to citizens legally carrying firearms. With that being said, I disagree with the interpretation of the law being put forth by the Chief. The cited provision of Senate Bill 308 altered the definition of “school safety zone” as it applied to code section 16-11-1271 O.C.G.A. The code section in question in both its current and former versions pertains only to the carry of weapons. The very words in the code section are “As used in this code section” just prior to defining the term “school safety zone”; therefore, the subsequent definition applies only to the particular code section in question. The code section, past or present, does not address the jurisdictional boundaries of school system police. School system police are established under 20-8-5 O.C.G.A.

I invite the readers of this article to research case law and the relevant code sections and show otherwise.

Private Property Parking Issues

The entertainment industry paints a picture of constant excitement and a never ending supply of dramatic cases with intricate legal issues.  In reality, the career of a peace officer is filled with mundane tasks making up the general routine, but sometimes a vital legal issue comes along and prompts much discussion.  Unfortunately, this isn’t one of those instances as the subject matter for this article is that of parking on private property.

Here is the scenario: a citizen finds a vehicle parked on their property that has not been authorized to do so.  The citizen suppresses the urge to slash the tires of said vehicle or otherwise damage it as the citizen realizes that this would lead to their own legal troubles.  The citizen then calls for a peace officer to come to the scene.  The citizen has expectations that the peace officer will arrive on scene and justice will prevail.  Unfortunately, Georgia law is rather mute on the issue in that it does not grant peace officers an effective remedy for this citizen’s predicament.  There is a code section that deals with parking spaces provided by merchants (see 40-6-252 O.C.G.A.), but remember, our scenario described a vehicle parked on private residential property.  I can find no code section that authorizes a peace officer to issue a citation or remove the vehicle in such an instance.

To muddy the waters even more, in order for a wrecker company to remove a vehicle from private property, the wrecker company must jump through bureaucratic hoops and register with the Public Service Commission (PSC).  A wrecker company that has not done so may be fined by the PSC.  I know of one company that did indeed receive such a fine in the amount of $2500.00.  Please understand that the above refers to non-consensual tows and not the actual owner of a vehicle wanting to have their own vehicle towed.  You can read more about the non-consensual towing requirements on the PSC webpage as well as here.  Towing companies removing vehicles from private property as part of a law enforcement function such as the recovery of a stolen vehicle or a vehicle being otherwise taken into evidence do not have to be registered with the PSC.

Please note that one of the requirements is that a private property must have a contract in place with a towing company prior to their removing a vehicle.  Furthermore, a private property owner who has a vehicle removed incurs certain reporting requirements as well.  As we have already discussed, a peace officer has no authority to remove a vehicle from private property simply because the owner does not want it there (exception for places of business as cited above).  It is up to the property owner to have a vehicle removed if they so desire.

By now I am sure that some readers are wondering how the criminal trespass code section (16-7-21 O.C.G.A.) applies to such situations.  This code section applies when a person enters onto another’s property for an unlawful purpose or they enter or remain on the land or premises of another after having been served notice by the property owner or an authorized agent not to do so.  The driver/occupants of the vehicle could be then be charged with criminal trespass, but the vehicle would still be on your property.

Finally, it would be a violation of Georgia Crime Information Center (GCIC) regulations for an agency to use the system to identify such a vehicle’s owner and then provide that information to the property owner. It would be possible for the property owner to go through the Tax Commissioner’s office to obtain such information; however, providing that information would be a decision made by the respective Tax Commissioner.

I am prepared to stand corrected.  If any reader of this finds information to the contrary they are encouraged to bring it to my attention.

Gun Show Loophole?

I do not intend for this piece to be a pathway into a debate on gun control or any of the applicable laws pertaining firearms sales. I am simply attempting to clarify the actual legal framework involved in a firearms sale. This piece is in response to a political commercial currently running on several of the cable news channels.

The commercial shows snippets of a terrorist asserting that people can simply walk into a gun show and buy fully automatic weapons without any sort of background check. The commercial is sponsored by a group of mayors, and it urges people to contact their congressmen concerning closing the so called gun show loophole.

The simple truth is that those claims are absolutely and totally false. Licensed firearms dealers must follow the exact same rules for selling a firearm at a gun show as they must follow when selling a firearm from their place of business. This is required by federal law, and such sales are regulated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives more commonly known as the ATF. Additionally, state laws regulating the sale of firearms must be followed at a gun show just as they are at a retail firearms shop.

Furthermore, fully automatic and select-fire firearms are Class III items, and as such, they are even more stringently regulated by the federal government and other applicable state laws. In order to purchase a Class III item, a person must be approved by the ATF prior to buying the item, and each item purchased requires specific approval. Part of that approval process includes either the signature of the chief law enforcement officer of the locality where the purchaser resides or the establishment of a legal trust. The process is very time consuming, and each item also incurs an additional $200.00 federal tax. The purchase process of a Class III item is measured in months and not minutes.  Private parties may not sell Class III items directly to another party. The transaction must go through a dealer approved by the federal government to handle Class III items.

The notion that someone can walk into a gun show and simply buy a fully automatic weapon is ludicrous to the point that the person espousing such is either ignorant on the law and is merely parroting remarks made by others, or the person is knowingly and intentionally perpetuating a lie.

Sales between private parties at gun shows are governed by the same state laws and applicable federal laws that apply to a private party transaction elsewhere in the respective state.

The gun show loophole does not exist.

Again, this piece was not intended as a pathway to a debate on gun control. Its intent is to provide accurate information.  This piece is not an argument in favor of or against control measures.

Notes on Speed Detection

Governor Lester Maddox was a professed segregationist who sold his Pickrick Cafeteria rather than serve black customers, but even he drew the line at speed traps. The town of Ludowici, Georgia, had become so notorious for operating a speed trap that Governor Maddox had billboards erected to the north and south of the town warning passing motorists to be wary of speed traps and clip joints, and he assigned state troopers to guard the signs. This was even covered by Time magazine.

You would think that speed enforcement would be an easy feat to accomplish. It seems pretty simple to assign a peace officer to go sit along a stretch of roadway with a speed detection device with that officer stopping and citing motorist that come along in excess of the speed limit. Well, as with most things government related, common sense and actual reality rarely meet, and this is no exception. There is one law that deals with the actual offense of speeding (40-6-181 O.C.G.A.). However, there are 17 separate state laws that deal with the operation of speed detection devices. If you are a student of history, you know that Lester Maddox was Governor of Georgia from 1967 through 1971. Most of these 17 code sections date back to 1968.

Among some of the requirements in the aforementioned state laws are the requirement for warning signs, visibility of the officer’s vehicle to approaching motorist, rules about where such devices may be used, testing devices for accuracy, etc, but perhaps the one that astounds the general public the most is a requirement that a county, city, or college/university agency have a permit from the state to operate speed detection devices. This permit does not give blanket authority to conduct speed detection throughout the agency’s jurisdiction. Specific streets must be listed on the permit along with their approved speed limit. If the speed limit is changed on a road, the permit for that stretch of road is rendered null and void until the process to have it changed on the speed permit is completed or the speed limit is put back to the limit listed on the permit. The speed permit comes up for renewal every three years, and making changes or additions to it is a very, very tedious process. Operating a speed detection device without the appropriate permit is a misdemeanor offense. The permit requirement does not apply to the Georgia State Patrol.

The requirements for operating speed detection equipment are found in 40-14-1 through 40-14-17 O.C.G.A. You can find the code sections online by clicking here.

I took a class a few years ago taught by a retired precinct commander from the Phoenix (AZ) Police Department. He told a story about taking over a precinct that had experienced numerous murders in the months preceding his getting the assignment. Keep in mind that Phoenix is broken up into eight precincts; so, this was multiple murders in just one precinct of the city in a short amount of time. The Commander told us that he met with community organizations upon taking over the precinct. The number one concern expressed to him was not the high murder rate. Each and every one of the community organizations wanted to know what he was going to do about speeding in their neighborhood.

The point of that story was to point out that speeding is a universal concern. We get more complaints about speeding than anything else, and I expect that a poll of agencies across the country would report likewise. The problem is, provided we have jumped all of the state’s hurdles to get a permit and your neighborhood is on the permit, that we really only have one tool to deal with speeders, and that is to write citations. If we come to an area to enforce the speed limits, we are going to catch people speeding, and this includes your spouse, your children, your neighbors, and maybe even you.

We would rather that people voluntary comply with the speed limits because when all you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail. On the weekend of the first UGA game this year, three of our deputies set up a big, flashing sign warning that speed limits were being strictly enforced. Those three deputies then wrote 80 citations in six and a half hours with none of the citations being for less than 15 miles per hour over the limit including one written for 99 miles per hour in a 55 mile per hour zone.

On Trainers and Training

While some denotations of the term make it technically correct, I don’t like using the term “civilian” to differentiate between peace officers and citizens; however, for the purposes of this writing it will simplify things; so, I’ll operate in typical government fashion and give myself an exception to my own rules. By civilian training, I mean firearms training for those people that are not actively serving in the military or acting as sworn peace officers, basically the proverbial average citizen. Recently, I had a discussion with a “civilian” firearms instructor whose opinion I highly value. That discussion prompted me to formally address the topic off our conversation with this article, which will focus on the credibility of instructors and the validity of certain training approaches.

I am certified by the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council (POST) as both a general and firearms instructor thus allowing to me train Georgia’s peace officers in the use of firearms and other general topics to include the use of force, and at the time I write this, I am certified by the National Rifle Association (NRA) to conduct their Basic Pistol, a pure safety and target shooting course, and Personal Protection In The Home (PPITH) courses, both of which are “civilian” firearms classes. The PPITH course does involve some defensive shooting techniques, but it approaches the subject matter from the perspective of a person defending themselves from a home intruder. I offer this information simply to illustrate that I am engaged in firearms training for both peace officers and civilians.

I strongly encourage those seeking firearms training to verify their prospective instructors’ qualifications and claims, especially when it comes to awards and certifications. For instance, there is one instructor in Georgia that claims numerous awards and has them listed on his web page. The fact is that those awards he is claiming simply do not exist; at least they do not exist in the manner in which he is portraying them. It’s also common for instructors to point to the fact that they are competitive shooters. Well, are they winning, and what is the nature and competitiveness of their contest? I shoot competitively, but somehow I don’t think my having won a Diet Coke as a trophy in the Monday night league at the Firing Lane puts me in the same class as Jerry Miculek or Rob Leatham.

There is no accrediting body for firearms instructor certifications, and there isn’t a legal requirement that a person or company offering firearms training actually be certified to do so unless such a requirement is specified as part of a license or permitting process. It is up to the individual seeking instruction to ascertain whether the prospective instructor has the legitimate credentials to be teaching the course(s) in question.

As for instructor certifications, just what do they mean? As for the NRA certifications, they simply mean that the holder is deemed qualified by the NRA to teach NRA developed and backed courses. They do not mean that the NRA deems the holder qualified to teach any other courses. With this is mind, consider a person that is certified as an NRA Basic Pistol instructor and that comes from a background in bullseye style target shooting with no substantial training in defensive shooting disciplines or tactics. Is this person really qualified to teach courses in combat shooting? Compare that to a person whose only formal instructor certification is NRA Basic Pistol but spent years in a SWAT unit or in a combat arms unit of the military. Their teaching a combat shooting course holds a lot more credibility, does it not?

Another issue to consider is the entity issuing the instructor credential. What is its credibility? Was the certification issued by a reputable organization, or did a person hoping to make a few bucks form a company and certify them self or employees as instructors? While this may be legitimate provided the instructors have other experience and credentials to stand on, but is it legitimate to simply issue a piece of paper to a person stating that they are certified to teach a “tactical” course? I should add that a company credentialing its own instructors in and of itself isn’t an indicator of chicanery. It could be a matter of insurance requirements or copyrighting. I am simply urging the potential student to verify the actual credentials and experience of the instructor.

Validity of training is another important piece of the puzzle. By validity, I mean more than the simple notion of whether or not the techniques being taught are fundamentally sound. Validity also entails the question of whether or not the techniques being taught are applicable to the world of the average citizen that chooses to carry a firearm. I recently saw a clip from a civilian training class in which students were formed into two and three man fire teams and were moving across the range as if they were clearing a street in Falujah. How is that a realistic scenario for a civilian: three shooting buddies shopping at the Gap forming a fire team and moving down the mall’s promenade to take on an active shooter or armed robbery in progress maybe? I typically refer to such classes as Advanced Tactical Weekend Ninja training. Another instructor group has clip of a student conducting a mock traffic stop. My first problem with this is when is the average civilian going to be legally conducting routine traffic stops much less a high risk felony style stop? The student was completely out of his element and had no fundamental foundation upon which to draw. He lost complete control of the “stop”, yet, the instructors told him how wonderful a job he did with the scenario.

I’m not arguing in the least that civilians shouldn’t be getting top quality and tactically sound training. What I am arguing is that the scenarios should encompass incidents that are likely to be faced by a civilian that also take into account the differing responsibilities and priorities of the civilian and the peace officer. For instance, in an active shooter situation I would expect a peace officer to actively engage the threat. For a civilian, a defensive mindset to include escaping the situation is perfectly acceptable. Taking three civilian students and teaching them a three-man stack and then sending them storming into a building towards the sound of the gunfire has a certain “cool factor” to it, but would I really be doing the students a service by focusing on such tactics when we could be spending time and ammunition on shooting while moving, shooting from cover, and target identification drills?

This piece was aimed at students and instructors alike. I hope that it encourages students to closely scrutinize prospective instructors and the classes they offer prior to putting out money to take such courses. I also hope that it encourages instructors to examine their course content with the validity question in mind. Perhaps it will cause a few of them to also examine their claims as well.

Yielding to Emergency Vehicles

The tragic death of a not quite two-year-old child on the Georgia 10 Loop has spurred a considerable amount of discussion locally concerning what a driver should do when approached by an emergency vehicle operating in emergency mode.

Georgia law addresses this issue in 40-6-74 O.C.G.A. stating:

“(a) Upon the immediate approach of an authorized emergency vehicle or a vehicle belonging to a federal, state, or local law enforcement agency making use of an audible signal and visual signals meeting the requirements of Code Section 40-6-6, the driver of every other vehicle shall yield the right of way and shall immediately drive to a position parallel to, and as close as possible to, the right-hand edge or curb of the roadway clear of any intersection and shall stop and remain in such position until the authorized emergency vehicle or law enforcement vehicle has passed, except when otherwise directed by a police officer.

(b) This Code section shall not operate to relieve the driver of any authorized emergency vehicle from the duty to drive with due regard for the safety of all persons using the highway.”

At the time that I write this, the wreck is still under review; so, I will not get into specifics of the investigation, and I do not intend this piece to be a criticism of any of the parties involved. I am simply attempting to address the issue in hopes that it will prevent similar occurrences. The general facts of the case are that an ambulance was en route to a call and was traveling on the Georgia 10 Loop, a four-lane divided highway that forms a perimeter route around Athens and passes through Clarke and Oconee Counties. Upon seeing the ambulance, a driver stopped in the roadway and was struck from behind by a pickup truck. A third vehicle was also struck during the collision. The above facts are sufficient for the purposes of this discussion, and I will not delve into the other issues arising from this tragedy at this time.

Pulling to the right and stopping sounds simple, and under ideal conditions it would be easy to achieve; however, ideal conditions would preclude the need for emergency response in the first place. Traffic congestion may not allow for a driver to move immediately to the right and stop. Other mitigating but certainly not alleviating factors are that vehicle manufacturers are producing vehicles that virtually shut out road noise, and the market is burgeoning with communication and media devices that often get used within vehicles creating more distractions. It is not uncommon at highway speeds for the sound of the siren and the emergency vehicle to “arrive” at virtually the same time thus not allowing for much reaction time on the part of drivers. This is why it is important for the drivers of emergency vehicles to not look upon the lights and sirens as creating a magic bubble that will give them instant right of way and a clear path to their call.

Pulling to the right as soon as practicable and stopping until the emergency vehicle passes is the preferred and expected response. Simply pulling to the right and continuing may prevent the emergency vehicle operator from being able to make a right hand turn. If you stop and allow it pass prior to continuing, it should allow enough time and space for the emergency vehicle to make any necessary maneuvers.