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Traffic Laws FAQsRULES OF THE ROAD
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.
If you have a question concerning traffic or the vehicle code that is not answered below then you may utilize the following form and submit your question directly to the MSP Traffic Services Section. You must provide a valid email address in order to receive a response.
Only questions relating to traffic safety will receive a response. If you have a question that relates to another area of law enforcement you may send that question through the Contact MSP link.
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 257.624astates 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.
: I have a question regarding a turn around on a road or "
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".
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.
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.
Are U-turns legal in
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.
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.
Question: Can I have tinted windows on my vehicle?
Answer: The law that covers window applications is MCL 257.709 . The use of tinting is limited to the rear side windows, the rear window if the vehicle has outside mirrors on both sides, and the top 4 inches of the front side windows. There is a limited exception for medical necessity with a doctor's prescription, which allows for tinting to be applied to the front side windows as well. Michigan does not have a specification for the darkness of the window application, but does prohibit applications with a solar reflectivity greater than 35%.
Question: If I have a signed letter by my doctor indicating a medical necessity for tinted windows can another person drive my vehicle if the windows are tinted?
Answer: MCL 257.709(3)(e) allows for front side window tinting with "...a letter signed by a physician or optometrist, indicating that the special window treatment or application is a medical necessity. However, the special window treatment or application shall not interfere with or obstruct the driver's clear vision of the highway or an intersecting highway." A vehicle equipped with such tinting could not legally be driven by a person other than the person to whom the letter was given.
Question: Can I install neon lighting within the interior of my vehicle?
Answer: The problem with placing neon lighting inside a vehicle is that the vehicle code is very specific about the color of lamps allowed on a vehicle and what color can be seen from what direction. For instance, the only color legally allowed to be displayed to the front of a vehicle is white or amber. The only color allowed to be displayed to the rear is red or amber. To the sides, front - amber or white, rear - amber or red. No other colors are allowed and if any permitted color lamp is visible from any direction that is not allowed then it cannot be equipped that way. If the lighting causes a visual impairment for the driver or is potentially distracting then such lighting is unlawful. Finally, like exterior neon lighting, there is no provision within the Michigan Vehicle Code that allows the use of interior neon lighting. Ultimately it will be a matter for the courts to decide.
Question: Are neon license plate frames legal?
Answer: You may equip your vehicle with a license plate frame that contains neon lights however they must be covered and unlit while on the roadway or within the public right-of way. In addition the frame cannot obstruct any of the registration information on the plate or tabs.
Question: Can I have neon underbody lighting on my vehicle?
Answer: MCL 257.698(4) prohibits equipping a vehicle with any lighting that is not expressly required or permitted by Chapter 6, unless both covered and unlit. Neon underbody lighting is neither expressly required nor permitted. If equipped, the lights must be unlit and covered while on a highway, which includes all public roads and the adjacent rights-of-way.
Question: I am considering equipping my vehicle with neon valve stem lights. Are they legal?
Answer: If installed on a vehicle, the lights must be both covered and unlit while on a highway (any public road, including the right-of-way). This prohibition includes, but is not limited to: windshield wiper lights, tire valve stem lights, overhead/roll bar lights, underbody lights, and interior after-market lighting if visible from outside of the vehicle.
Question: Are smoked-out headlight covers legal?
Answer: The Michigan Vehicle Code requires head lamps to emit a white light, with "high-beams" of intensity to reveal persons and vehicles at a distance of at least 350 feet ahead, and low-beams of intensity to reveal persons and vehicles at a distance of at least 100 feet ahead. Since smoked headlamp covers change the color of light, and/or decrease their intensity below the requirements, they should not be used when headlamps are required to be on. However, smoked headlamp covers may be used when headlamps are not on, and not required.
Question: Is having smoked tail light/brake covers legal in Michigan? How about the smoked ones with slashes or vents in them showing a small part of the original red lens?
requires a tail lamp to emit a red light plainly visible for at least 500 feet to the rear of the vehicle.
MCL 257.697 requires stop lamps to emit a red or amber light and be capable of being seen and distinguished from other lamps for a distance of 100 feet, including during normal daylight.
If the cover you apply prohibits the lamp from meeting these requirements then it is unlawful.
Question: I own a retired Police Cruiser and am looking into adding on some extra equipment (Spotlights, etc.). Before I do so I would like to know what is legal (both on and off the road) here in Michigan.
Answer: If your intention is to equip this vehicle to represent an authorized emergency vehicle you cannot operate that vehicle on the roadway unless you are a peace officer. The use and/or possession of a flashing, rotating, or oscillating light of any color would be prohibited.
Should you decide to operate a vehicle on the roadway equipped as a police vehicle you would be subject to arrest for the criminal act of "False Representation as a Peace Officer".
Question: Would it be legal to install a (police type) siren on my car for purposes of an auto alarm?
Answer: MCL 257.706 covers sirens on vehicles. Under the circumstances you describe the installation and use of a siren would be illegal.
Question: I would just like to know if there is any sound level or DB law here in Michigan for automotive exhausts, specifically aftermarket?
Answer: MCL 257.707c provides the decibel levels at which the noise is considered excessive, while MCL 257.707e addresses the procedure for conducting a test. It is important to note that while these objective levels are provided, a vehicle below these levels may still be in violation. MCL 257.707b requires an exhaust system to be maintained in good working order to prevent excessive or unusual noise, which can be subjective. MCL 257.707 requires that an exhaust system be equipped with a muffler, and a resonator and tailpipe, if originally equipped. This precludes the modification of an exhaust system beyond the replacement of worn-out parts.
Question: I am wondering what vehicle equipment requirements must be followed for a four-wheeled motorcycle. Or what the law is on making a 4-wheeler, able to use on public roads.
Answer: MCL 257.31 defines a motorcycle as "every motor vehicle having a saddle or seat for the use of the rider and designed to travel on not more than 3 wheels in contact with the ground but excluding a tractor." Therefore, a four-wheel vehicle is not a motorcycle under Michigan law regardless of the vehicle configuration. The type of vehicle that you are describing would probably fall in the category of "ORV," defined in MCL 324.81101.
Some ORV's (generally dune buggy type) may be registered with the Secretary of State and operated legally on the road. The major determining factor is how the vehicle is equipment. If your vehicle possesses the required equipment, you can contact a Secretary of State branch office to obtain a form for an inspection in order to register the vehicle. If your vehicle does not meet these equipment standards, it cannot be registered, nor can it be operated on any road or right-of-way in Michigan, subject to some very specific exceptions.
Question: Are tire chains legal in Michigan?
Answer: MCL 257.710 of the Michigan Vehicle Code covers the use of tire chains, and states that a person may "use a tire chain of reasonable proportion upon a vehicle when required for safety because of snow, ice, or other condition tending to cause a vehicle to skid." If used, the chain must not come in contact with the surface of the roadway.
Are studded tires legal in
Answer: In practical terms, no.
Administrative Rules 247.171 through 247.175 govern studded tires and set the criteria for their use.
These rules state two conditions that must be met for the use of studded tires. Note: to date no manufacturer of tire studs has supplied information to the Michigan Department of Transportation that their product meets or exceeds the required pavement wear specifications.
First, they can only be used between November 15 and April 1 of the succeeding year except in the
Second, studs or other traction devices shall not be used unless they wear either concrete or asphalt pavements, typical of those in this state, at a rate not to exceed 25% of the reference standard studded tire.
Question: Are radar jammers illegal in Michigan?
Answer: RADAR jammers, both active and passive, are illegal under federal law in all 50 states (see excerpt from FCC news release).
FCC FINDS MARKETING OF ROCKY MOUNTAIN RADAR'S SPIRIT II RADAR JAMMER TO BE IN VIOLATION OF ITS RULES. Ruled that a radar jamming device manufactured by Rocky Mountain Radar that interferes with police radar signals is illegal; found that interference from these devices creates a threat to public safety. Report No: CI 97-14. by MO&O. Action by: Commission. Adopted: December 4, 1997. (FCC No. 97-404) News Media Contact: David Fiske (202) 418-0500. CIB Contact: Ana J. Curtis at (202) 418-1160.
Question: Is the use of a radar detector in a private vehicle legal in the State of Michigan?
Answer: Radar detectors are legal for use in passenger vehicles in the state of Michigan.
Question: I was told that you could dial *677 from your cell phone and it would connect you directly to the state police. Is this true?
Answer: This internet myth isactually based partially in reality, but does not apply to
Question: Is it against the law to talk on a cell phone while driving in Michigan?
Answer: Michigan does not have a law specifically prohibiting cell phone use in a vehicle. A driver who becomes distracted by using a cell phone, and commits a traffic violation could be charged with careless driving, or with the specific violation, such as improper lane use, if they are drifting in and out of their lane.
Some municipalities have recently enacted local ordinances that prohibit using a cellular phone while driving within their respective jurisdiction. Any municipality that establishes such an ordinance should post notification at their jurisdictional boundaries to alert motorists.
Question: I was told recently that if you are from out of state and you are pulled over for speeding in Michigan, you must either pay $100 cash immediately or give up your driver's license. Is this correct?
Answer: MCL 257.749(1) states in part "When a person who is not a resident of this state is stopped for a civil infraction...the police officer making the stop shall take that person's driver's license as security for the nonresident's appearance in court and satisfaction of any order which may be issued under section 907 and shall issue to that person a citation as provided in sections 727c and 742."
MCL 257.749(2) states "In lieu of the officer's taking of the license under subsection (1) or before appearance in court, the person stopped may recognize to the officer or to the court for his or her appearance by leaving with the officer or court a guaranteed appearance certificate or a sum of money not to exceed $100.00."
The license, $100 cash, or guaranteed appearance certificate are to guarantee appearance in court or payment of a citation, as the State of Michigan cannot suspend the license of a nonresident. License suspension is the normal procedure for a Michigan resident that fails to take care of a citation. The bond is not a payment for the citation. A receipt is given on the citation for the choice of bond.
Question: Please provide me with the state law, act or policy that outlines the speed limits on unmarked rural roads. It is our understanding that the speed limit on an unmarked rural dirt road is 45 mph and 55 mph on an unmarked rural paved road.
Answer: MCL 257.628 of the Michigan Vehicle Code sets the statewide maximum speed limit on all unposted highways at 55 mph. Gravel roads are included in this. Gravel roads are currently excluded from the process of lowering posted speeds through a Traffic Control Order due to the changing conditions of these roads. The Basic Speed Law, MCL 257.627, adequately covers these changing conditions by requiring drivers to "drive at a careful and prudent speed not greater than nor less than is reasonable and proper, having due regard to the traffic, surface, and width of the highway and of any other condition then existing."
Question: I live on a road where many new homes are being built. The speed limit is 55 mph and I think that is too high. Can you tell me how speed limits are established?
Answer: Our website contains a booklet on how speed limits are established. Click on this link to view the publication, "Establishing Realistic Speed Limits"
Question: Under what conditions may a police officer exceed the posted speed limit?
Answer: MCL 257.632 of the Michigan Vehicle Code states that an officer may exceed the speed limit "when traveling in emergencies or in the chase or apprehension of violators of the law or of persons charged with or suspected of a violation..."
Question: I would like to request a list of helmets that have been approved by the Department of State Police.
Answer: Motorcycle helmets that meet the federal standards of 49 C.F.R. are considered approved in Michigan under administrative rule R 28.951. The Michigan Department of State Police does not maintain a list of those helmets. Motorcycle helmets sold through a reputable dealer will normally be in compliance. Look for indications of compliance on the box and in the paperwork supplied with the helmet, in addition to a Department of Transportation (DOT) sticker affixed to the helmet.
Please be aware that helmets purchased from individuals, at swap meets and shows, or through non-reputable dealers may not be in compliance with federal standards. Additionally, watch for disclaimers on the box indicating that a helmet is novelty only, and not for street use.
Question: Is there a specific age, or weight that children can legally ride as a passenger on a motorcycle?
Answer: There is no minimum age for a child to ride on a motorcycle, subject to one exception based on size rather than age. MCL 257.658a states "A passenger shall not ride on a motorcycle unless his or her feet can rest on the assigned foot rests or pegs except...due to a permanent physical disability."
Question: I heard that Michigan changed its seat belt law and now requires booster seats. Is that true?
Answer: Michigan recently amended it's safety belt law which becomes effective July 1, 2008. A synopsis of the amended law follows.
Question: I own a car built in 1957 which did not come from the factory with seatbelts. Can I legally drive this vehicle on the road and take my children with me without seatbelts?
Answer: Yes. MCL 257.710b states in part that a private passenger vehicle manufactured after January 1, 1965 must be equipped with safety belts for the driver and one other front seat passenger. MCL 257.710d states in part that child restraint requirements do not apply to motor vehicles not required to be equipped with safety belts under federal law or regulation.
Question: Where would I find information about what the actual law is regarding the use of seatbelts?
Answer: Basically, Michigan's law states that all front seat passengers must wear a properly fastened safety belt, and all rear seat passengers from the ages of 4 through 15 must wear a properly fastened safety belt (we also encourage people 16 and over to buckle up in the rear seat).
Children up to the age of 4 must be properly restrained in a child safety seat no matter where they are seated in the vehicle.
There are a few exemptions to both of these laws, but we always encourage people to properly fasten their safety belt at all times while traveling in a vehicle. Listed below are the links for the full text of Michigan's safety belt and child restraint laws:
Question: I have tried to find information on infant and child car seat laws. Car seats come with recommendations but never list the law. My friends and I want to make sure our children are restrained properly and according to the law but everywhere I turn I can find no information on what those laws are. How long do children have to be in "car seats" versus just the seat of the car for instance?
The law does not cover where the children should ride but, regardless of what the law states, we know that there are safer ways to transport children in a motor vehicle. Statistics consistently show that the rear seat is the safest place for all children 12 and under.
Federal standards require child seat manufacturers or automotive manufacturers in the case of built-in child seats, to provide instructions and label these seats with warnings for incorrect placement. To comply with state law you MUST follow the manufacturers instructions.
Question: I have a question. When there is an air bag in the front passenger side, are children 12 and under supposed to be in the back seat?
The following links to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will give you more information regarding air bag safety and statistics, as well as other passenger safety information:
Question: Is it legal to ride in a pickup camper secured to the bed of my pickup or in a tow behind camper?
Question: My husband saw on the news last night that golf carts were allowed on the county roads in the state of Michigan. Is this true? What are the requirements?
Answer: In late 2006 the Michigan Legislature amended MCL 257.25b and modified the definition of a low speed vehicle to conform to federal standards. As now defined, a low speed vehicle means a four-wheeled motor vehicle whose speed attainable in 1 mile is more than 20 mph but not more than 25 mph on a paved level surface.
A low speed vehicle must be equipped as necessary under both federal standards and Michigan Law.
The operator must have a driver license and the vehicle must be registered and insured.
If the cart is not equipped as necessary it can only be legally operated on a highway, (including the right-of-way) in the state of Michigan, under very strict circumstances. In those situations it would be defined as an ORV found in MCL 324.81101 and circumstances allowing operation on a highway while severely limited can be found in the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, MCL 324.81122 .
Local municipalities can authorize situations where an ORV can be operated on a highway within their jurisdiction. MCL 324.81131 defines those situations.
Question: I have a Polaris Ranger and want to know if I can operate it on the road?
Answer: A number of questions have been received concerning use of motor vehicles on public roads that were originally designed and manufactured as off-road vehicles. As a result, we published Traffic Services Section Field Update #21 that discusses this question in depth.
Readers must be aware that if they retro-fit an ORV and make false statements, or provide false information to law enforcement or the Michigan Department of State when having the vehicle inspected, and as a result improperly register the vehicle, they can be charged with a violation.
Question: Where can I legally ride a goped?
Answer: A goped, while not specifically defined in the Michigan Vehicle Code, does fall under the definition of a moped (MCL.257.32b) . Mopeds are required to have certain equipment such as; a headlight, brake light, seat, horn, muffler, and brakes on each wheel, in order to be legally operated on the roadway. In addition, the operator of a moped must be at least 15 years of age, have a moped license or an operator/chauffeur license, and the vehicle must be registered with the Department of State and display a valid registration plate. Finally, a person operating a moped must wear an approved crash helmet if they are under 19 years of age.
Because gopeds are not equipped with the required equipment they cannot be legally driven on the roadway. Also, by definition they are a motor vehicle and therefore cannot be driven on a sidewalk constructed for use by pedestrians.
Question: Can someone tell me what the laws in Michigan are for riding pocket bikes?
Answer: If the "pocket bike" has an engine displacement of 50cc's or less, produces 2.0 brake horsepower or less, is capable of a top speed of no more than 30 mph, and the operator is not required/allowed to shift gears, then it may be legally classified as a moped. The document titled "Moped Requirements" lists the operational and equipment requirements for such motor vehicles. Most "pocket bikes" will not meet those requirements and therefore will not be street legal.
If the "pocket bike" has an engine displacement greater than 50cc's then it is classified as a motorcycle and must meet the requirements applicable to that type of vehicle. Again, most "pocket bikes" will not meet these requirements
Beginning in July 2005, the State of Michigan launched an new website dedicated to online purchasing of traffic crash reports. Interested parties may be able to purchase a copy of a traffic crash report taken by any Michigan law enforcement agency.
Question: I was involved in a traffic crash in the past and need a copy of the report. Where can I obtain one?
Answer: Interested parties such as individuals involved in the crash and/or their attorney, and insurance companies should contact the Traffic Crash Purchasing System(TCPS) via the internet at the aforementioned link. If unable to do so you can contact the Michigan State Police Post that responded to the crash. A listing of state police posts is follows.
Each post retains traffic crash reports for the current year plus two years. If the crash occurred prior to that you must request a copy of the report from the Criminal Justice Information Center using a Freedom of Information Request form.
In addition, if you are not an interested party as described above, you must complete a Freedom of Information Request to obtain a specific traffic crash report.
Complete the form with as much information as possible and mail to the address listed on the form.
If another agency other than the Michigan State Police responded and completed a crash report you will need to contact that agency directly or utilize the TCPS..
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