Michigan Traffic Laws FAQ | Frequently Asked Questions

Michigan Traffic Laws FAQ

Click on the link below to find out answers and questions related to the Michigan traffic law topic:


Disclaimer - This Frequently Asked Questions page is provided solely as a means of providing basic answers to questions about the Michigan Vehicle Code and is not designed or intended to provide a basis to contest a citation for a violation of the code. The positions stated are only those of the Michigan Department of State Police and are not binding on any other law enforcement agency or any court. If our position is supported by case law then it will be enumerated within the answer provided. The information on this page is provided by www.Michigan.gov and the Michigan Department of Transportation.

Rules Of The Road

Question: I recently encountered a new traffic light with 4 different signals including flashing arrows in red, yellow, and green. What am I supposed to do when the light is flashing a yellow arrow?

Answer: The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) has recently begun replacing the old flashing red signals for left turn lanes at intersections with a new style of signal that incorporates four lights. This is what MDOT has to say about the new signals. "Those lights are a flashing yellow arrow which permits a left turn when oncoming traffic is clear (oncoming traffic has a green light), a steady green arrow allows you to turn left, a steady yellow arrow warns that the left-turn signal is about to turn red and you should prepare to stop, and a steady red arrow which requires you to stop. The steady red arrow will be followed by a flashing yellow arrow on the next cycle." For more information read this brochure on the New Four-Arrow Signal.

Question:   My husband just got a ticket for running a yellow light. How is that possible? I thought as long as you didn't speed up, you could go through a yellow.

Answer: MCL 257.612 states in part, " ...vehicular traffic facing the signal shall stop before entering the nearest crosswalk at the intersection or at a limit line when marked, but if the stop cannot be made in safety, a vehicle may be driven cautiously through the intersection."

The bottom line is, unless it is dangerous to stop, you must stop when the light turns yellow. The only exception is when you are preparing to make a left turn and you are already within the intersection. You can complete your left turn after oncoming traffic has stopped, even if the light turns red.

Question: Can I have open alcohol in a trailer that is being pulled on the road?

Answer: In most instances transporting or possession of open intoxicants in a vehicle is not permitted. MCL 257.624a states in part, "a person who is an operator or occupant shall not transport or possess alcoholic liquor in a container that is open or uncapped or upon which the seal is broken within the passenger compartment of a vehicle upon a highway, or within the passenger compartment of a moving vehicle in any place open to the general public or generally accessible to motor vehicles, including an area designated for the parking of vehicles..." There are limited exceptions in cases where the vehicle does not have a trunk or separate area from the passenger compartment and in the case of a chartered vehicle such as a limousine or chartered bus.

Question:  When are turn signals required to be used and does this include changing lanes?

Answer: MCL 257.648states in part. "The driver...before stopping or turning from a direct line, shall first see that the stopping or turning can be made in safety and shall give a signal as required...". Common sense and state law agree that whenever you are turning, a signal is required, however, much debate has occurred over whether that language required the use of turn signals when simply changing lanes.

The Michigan Court of Appeals has finally clarified the language in MCL 257.648 requiring the use of a signal when changing lanes, or "turning from a direct line." Their decision--published, and therefore binding on lower courts — states in summary "...a reasonable person of ordinary intelligence is not required to speculate about the phrase's meaning, and MCL 257.648 provides fair notice of what conduct is proscribed. We hold that MCL 257.648 requires drivers to use a turn signal when changing lanes on a highway and is not unconstitutionally vague."

Question:  Can I turn left on a red light?

Answer:  MCL 257.612 (1)(c)(ii) states in part, "Vehicular traffic facing a steady red signal, after stopping before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection or at a limit line when marked or, if there is no crosswalk or limit line, before entering the intersection, may make…a left turn from a 1-way or 2-way street into a 1-way roadway carrying traffic in the direction of the left turn unless prohibited by sign, signal, marking, light, or other traffic control device.

The same rules apply to turning right on a steady red signal. Unless prohibited, a right turn on a steady red signal may be made from a 1-way or 2-way street onto a 2-way street or a 1-way street carrying traffic in the direction of the right turn.
Question: When merging onto a freeway who has the right-of-way?

Answer: MCL 257.649(7) governs this question. A driver entering a roadway from a roadway that is intended for and constructed as a merging roadway, and is plainly marked at the intersection with the appropriate merge signs, shall yield the right-of-way to traffic upon the roadway that is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard and shall adjust their speed to enable them to merge safely with through traffic. Simply put, a driver merging onto a freeway must yield to traffic upon the freeway. It must be noted that traffic on the freeway cannot intentionally block a driver from merging by either speeding up or slowing down.

Question: I have a question regarding a turn around on a road or "Michigan left". I know you can turn left onto the one way at a turn around, but is it illegal to go straight thru to a driveway across one way traffic?

Answer: Many people seem to be confused when it comes to what has been termed a "Michigan Left". The following two graphics depict similar intersection and show the proper and improper use of a turnaround.

Proper use of a turnaround or "Michigan Left".

Michigan traffic laws lawyer

The driver is traveling east on street A and wants to make a left turn to the north onto street B but there are no left turns allowed at the intersection. Traveling through the intersection and using the turnaround, the driver approaches the steady red light and makes a left on red when traffic permits. The driver then proceeds west on street A and makes a right turn to the north onto Street B.

Improper left turn on red.

Traffic laws attorney Michigan

The driver is eastbound on street A and wants to turn left onto street C. When the driver enters the turnaround and stops at the steady red signal they cannot proceed straight through (north) onto Street C until the signal turns green.

Question: Are U-turns legal in Michigan?

Answer: Under state law and in the absence of a traffic control device prohibiting same, the maneuver may be completed as long as it can be done in safety, is not careless or reckless, and gives way to other traffic that have the right-of-way. This is outside of a city, village, or township that has adopted the Uniform Traffic Code.

Within the boundaries of any city, village, or township, that has adopted the Uniform Traffic Code, rule 434 states... "R 28.1434 Rule 434. Limitations on turning around; violation as civil infraction.

  1. The driver of any vehicle shall not turn the vehicle so as to proceed in the opposite direction on any street in a business district and shall not, on any other street, so turn a vehicle unless the movement can be made in safety and without interfering with other traffic.
  2. A person who violates this rule is responsible for a civil infraction." Under the UTC the requirement of whether or not there must be a sign posted prohibiting u-turns is debatable. Some say yes and some say no. The final determination will be up to the individual court.

Question: How far can you drive in a center turn lane?

Answer: That depends. When preparing for a left turn a driver can travel a "reasonable" distance in the center turn lane.

It is unlawful to use the center left turn lane for a right turn or as a merge lane when entering the roadway.

Question: Is it against the law to drive in the left lane when not passing another vehicle?

Answer: Here is what MCL 257.634 has to say about lane driving. If the road has 2 or more lanes in one direction, vehicles shall be driven in the extreme right-hand lane. If all lanes are occupied by vehicles moving in substantially continuous lanes of traffic then a driver can use any lane available. A driver may also use the left lane for a reasonable distance when preparing for a left turn.

On a freeway having 3 or more lanes, a driver may use any lane lawfully available. MCL 257.642 gives further direction and states in part, "…Upon a roadway with 4 or more lanes which provides for 2-way movement of traffic, a vehicle shall be driven within the extreme right-hand lane except when overtaking and passing, but shall not cross the center line of the roadway except where making a left turn.

Question: Can a person ride in the back of a pickup truck?

Answer: It is unlawful for any person under the age of 18 to ride in the open bed of a pickup at a speed greater than 15 miles per hour on a public roadway. MCL 257.682b covers this in detail.

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