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Rules of the Road in Michigan


You may have a lot of questions about how the State of Michigan handles traffic.

In this article, let us share with you some answers provided by the State of Michigan regarding many traffic concerns.

Question: How do I treat a dark traffic signal at an intersection?

Answer: When a signal at an intersection loses power and there are no other traffic control devices (e.g., stop sign, yield sign, temporary signal, temporary sign) or police officers present at that intersection to provide direction, the intersection will be treated as a four way stop.

MCL 257.649 requires a driver approaching an intersection with a traffic control signal that does not clearly indicate the right of way or is malfunctioning to treat the intersection as a four-way stop by doing the following:

  • Stop at a clearly marked stop line, or, if there is no clearly marked stop line, stop before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection, or, if there is no crosswalk, stop before entering the intersection.
  • Yield the right of way to all vehicles in the intersection or approaching on an intersecting road, if those vehicles create an immediate hazard when the driver is moving across or within the intersection.
  • Exercise ordinary care while proceeding through the intersection.

The “four-way stop” rules do not apply to the following:

  • An intersection that is controlled by a traffic control signal that is flashing yellow unless certain events occur, including, but not limited to, activation by an emergency vehicle.
  • A traffic control signal that is located in a school zone and is flashing yellow only during prescribed periods of time.

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.”

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 257.648 states 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.

This article begins a series of articles that shares common answers shared by the State of Michigan to common traffic issues and concerns in the State. Read on the series and learn more about how you can properly protect yourself in the State of Michigan. You can find these answers in the Traffic Laws FAQs of the State of Michigan website.

The post Rules of the Road in Michigan appeared first on Haque Legal.

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