Legalese — Driving in the Gore

As a traffic court judge, I often see people who are surprised for getting tickets for things they had no idea they couldn’t do.  One of those things is “driving in the gore.”

The gore is defined in the code as “the area of convergence between two lanes of traffic.”  O.C.G.A. 40-6-49.  In English, it is the stripey part of the road that you see, generally before a turn lane or where a merge lane or exit ramp peels off or into the main road.  It looks like this:

gore turn lane

The rule is simple.  You can’t drive on it.  Although it looks like a perfectly serviceable piece of road, and sometimes there is a perfectly good, logical reason for driving on it, like if you need to whip off of an exit ramp to cut into traffic efficiently or if the turn lane is backed up and you want to get into it without clogging up traffic in the left lane, the rule is that you can’t drive on it.  The law says: “No vehicle shall be drive over, across or within any…gore.”  Period.  The only exceptions spelled out involve emergency vehicles and public transit.

Generally speaking, most police officers will use their discretion and not give you a ticket if you are driving across the gore for one of those perfectly logical reasons.  However, what I see a lot, and what is dangerous is a scenario like the following.  A road, like Highway 78 in my town, will have two lanes of travel in either direction.  There is a middle lane which is not designated for travel that exists consistently throughout.  Sometimes it is a turn lane.  Sometimes it is marked with a gore.  When people know they have a left turn coming up, they will go ahead and get in the middle lane, driving across the gore, especially if traffic in the left lane is backed up.  This can be very dangerous, because people who are obeying the law and waiting their turn to get in the turn lane may be following the path of the lane markers and not looking behind them to see if anyone is breaking the law.

Why? you may ask.  What is the purpose of these gore areas, especially if so many people ignore them?  According to OSHA[1], these transitional spaces provide for additional visibility and make roads generally safer.  Safety is a good goal.

Realistically, this is one of those obscure laws that I am well aware is going to be broken without consequence most of the time.  However, don’t be surprised if there turns out to be a consequence – just because you’ve broken the law a thousand times without consequence doesn’t mean that this won’t be the time that you have to pay the piper.

[1] https://www.osha.gov/doc/highway_workzones/mutcd/6c_temporary.html

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