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Right of Way, U-Turns, and State Law in Michigan Traffic


In the previous article, we have shared with you some answers that the State of Michigan shared for drivers in the Michigan. We continue answering some questions in this article.

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.

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”:

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.

The answers here are provided in the Traffic Law FAQs of the website of the State of Michigan. All answers belong to the State and are only shared here.

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