An Introduction to Michigan Traffic Laws

In 2009, 11 out of every 100,000 people in the U.S. were killed in a motor vehicle crash according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Michigan's share for 2009 was 871 traffic fatalities.  Although overall, most states are decreasing in these statistics, it is a slow decrease. Even one out of 100,000 may have been prevented.

This article discusses just a few of the most significant traffic laws in the state of Michigan. The following information is for your safety, and the safety of others sharing the road with you.

Eyes on the Road

It is estimated that in the quarter of a second it takes the brain to shift attention between two tasks, a vehicle going 65 mph covers 24 feet. Even seemingly simple tasks such as tuning a radio can be risky, especially in bad weather or heavy traffic.  Distracted driving is becoming more of an issue with the increasing use of cell phones, GPS, IPods and other devices. Don't take your eyes, or mind, off the road.

School Bus Lights Are Flashing

School buses may stop frequently in your travel area. It is important to know when to stop and when to proceed with caution. Michigan requires when:

  • Overhead red lights are flashing and bus is moving, prepare to stop.
  • Overhead red lights are flashing and bus is stopped, stop no closer than 20 feet from the bus.
  • Red lights are turned off; proceed when it is safe to do so.
  • Overhead yellow lights are flashing, prepare to stop.
  • Yellow hazard warning lights are flashing on moving or stopped bus, proceed with caution.

It is not necessary to stop for a school bus that has stopped on the other side of a divided highway where the road is separated by a barrier such as a concrete or grass median, island or other structure that separates the flow of traffic.

To Not Speed or Not to Speed

Either way you look at it, you shouldn't speed. Speeding increases the stopping distance between your car braking and hitting something on the road. It also increases the severity of accidents.

Watch for and obey regulatory signs that tell you the safe or suggested speed. Unless posted otherwise, the fastest speed you may drive is:

  • 15 mph - in mobile home parks and on some roads adjacent to parks and playgrounds.
  • 25 mph - in business and residential areas and in parks and in most school zones.
  • 45 mph - when entering and passing through a designated work area where a normal lane or part of the lane is closed for construction, maintenance or surveying activities.
  • 55 mph - on Michigan's highways
  • 70 mph - on freeways,  55 mph is the minimum speed. The maxium speed for buses and trucks is 60 mph on freeways with a 70 mph speed limit. On all other freeways, buses and trucks are restricted to 55 mph.

Interesections Are Dangerous.

Most crashes occur at intersections. If your light says green, it doesn't mean "Go!".  In traffic it always means "Move forward with caution.".  Any time you are not sure what other drivers are going to do, it is always best to let them go first. Here are some important rules of the road:

  • When approaching intersections without traffic signals, signs, or four-way stop intersections, yield to the driver on the right if you reach the intersection at the same time. Yeild to any vehicle that reaches an intersection before you.
  • When making lef turns, you must give the right-of-way to pedestrians and oncoming traffic.
  • When approaching an intersection with a yield sign, slow down before reaching the intersection and then yield the right-of-way to any vehicle in the intersection and to cross traffic. Stop if necessary.

Who Has the Right of Way?

No one. The right of way isn't actually a "right" according to the law. People must give up or yield the right of way. The state of Michigan requires the right of way be yielded in the following circumstances:

  • When directed by a uniformed law encorcement officer
  • When directed by flag people at construction sites
  • For vehicles at a funeral procession
  • When entering a highway from an alley, private road or driveway
  • Before turning on a red light
  • When entering a roundabout to drivers already in the roundabout
  • When entering an intersection at sunrise or sunset, as other drivers may have difficulty seeing you
  • To emergency vehicles approaching. Remember to pull over an allow emergeny vehicles to reach their destination as quicly and safely as possible. Never stop in a roundabout for emergency vehicles. Exit the roundabout before pulling over to the side of the road.

Just Passing Through

Passing is a dangerous maneuver. Ever see a car moving recklessly in and out of the lanes around you? These drivers take for granted  and assume everyone else on the road is a predictable, law-abiding motorist. They are also not anticipating unforseen events caused by car failure, weather, animals, human factors, etc.  This is how many deadly collisions can occur.

Michigan states that passing another vehicle on the left is prohibited when:

  • Crossing a solid yellow line.
  • There is a no passing sign.
  • Approaching a hill or curve where your view is obstrucuted.
  • Your view is obstrcuted within 100 feet of a bridge, viaduct or tunnel.
  • Oncoming traffic is close enough so you would interfere with the safe operation of the approaching vehicle or the vehicle being passed.
  • When the center lane of a three-land road is marked fo left turnes only.
  • When two or more lanes of traffic are moving in the same dirction, passing other vehicles in either lane is allowed. However, slower moving vehicles should always stay in the lane farthest to the right excpet when preparing to make a left turn.

Passing on the right of another vehicle by crossing a sold white line that marks the edege of the oradway is prohibitied. It is also illegal to use a right turn lane for passing.

For more important Michigan traffic laws, view the Michigan Driver Handbook or sign up for >Michigan Basic Driver Improvement.

Driver Improvement Benefits

  • Department of State Approved
  • 24/7 Course and Customer Support
  • Log On and Off as Needed
  • Includes Free Certificate
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Provided By:
American Safety Council