All the Michigan Traffic Laws You Should Know

Michigan has strict DUI laws and unique turning patterns—here’s everything you need to know about Michigan traffic laws.
Written by Claire Beaney
Edited by Sarah Gray
background
Obey all posted signs, use your turn signal, and avoid distracted driving—these basic principles are fundamental to safe and legal driving in
Michigan
. But when it comes to yielding, right of way, and parking restrictions, you might be surprised just how complicated Michigan’s traffic laws really are.
  • The Michigan State Police and the Michigan Driver's Manual create traffic regulations that address issues such as right of way and DUI penalties. 
  • In Michigan, every driver must have a valid driver's license and must have
    car insurance
    that meets the state's minimums for liability coverage. If you don't show proof of insurance, you could be fined, put in jail, or have your license suspended.
  • Understanding right of way is crucial in Michigan. There are particular guidelines for navigating traffic signals, four-way intersections, roundabouts, and school zones. Ignoring these can result in penalties, fines, and even felony charges if it causes hurt or death.

Michigan general traffic laws

The
Michigan State Police
and the
Michigan Driver’s Manual
govern the rules of the road. From who has the right of way to various DUI penalties, all drivers should know basic Michigan traffic laws before getting behind the wheel. 
Because these guidelines can be dense and difficult to understand, we’ve summarized the most important parts below. 

Driver’s license laws

All drivers must be
licensed
to operate a motor vehicle in Michigan. You must be able to produce your license whenever you are pulled over by police. 
There are penalties for
driving without a license
in Michigan. Known as DWLS (Driving While License Suspended, Revoked, or Never Acquired), this violation is considered a
misdemeanor
which could result in a fine of up to $500 and 93 days in jail. What’s more, this conviction could stay on your record permanently, depending on the circumstances (like if you cause death or injury while driving without a license).

Insurance laws

Drivers must also carry car insurance in Michigan. The state-mandated minimum car insurance coverages in Michigan are 50/100/10 for liability insurance:
Michigan is one of 12
no-fault states
. In these states, every driver must file against their own insurance policy medical claims before filing against the other driver—regardless of who was at fault. Drivers must carry no-fault insurance, including
personal injury protection (PIP)
,
property protection insurance (PPI)
, and residual liability insurance.
You must carry
proof of insurance
at all times; otherwise, you could be charged with a misdemeanor. The
consequences
for this violation include a fine of up to $500, up to 12 months in jail, and a license suspension for 30 days. Then, you’ll have to pay another $125 to reinstate your license.

Right of way

You must yield to pedestrians, bicyclists, and other drivers under a variety of circumstances. Here’s what you need to know about the right of way in Michigan.
The general rules are that drivers should yield to other vehicles whenever making a left turn or another vehicle is making a right turn.
At four-way intersections, the first vehicle to arrive has the right of way. When vehicles arrive at the same time, the vehicle to the right has the right of way.
If you encounter a traffic light with four different signals with flashing red, yellow, and green arrows, then you’ve found a new kind of signal designed by the Michigan Department of Transportation. A flashing yellow arrow means you may turn left when oncoming traffic is clear, whereas a steady yellow arrow tells you that the signal is about to turn red.
To navigate a roundabout in Michigan, yield to oncoming traffic, and do not change lanes or pass other vehicles.
In Michigan, drivers must yield to pedestrians in marked crosswalks, at intersections, at midblock, or an unmarked crosswalk on the driver’s side of the roadway when no traffic control devices are present. Yielding is also mandatory for children in or near a school zone when school is in session.
Drivers must always yield to funeral processions—breaking this law is a civil infraction.
Finally, emergency vehicles with lights or sirens on always have the right of way in Michigan. Drivers should slow down to 10 mph below the posted speed limit and navigate to an open lane to provide clearance to the emergency vehicle. 
Breaking this law is a civil infraction, which can be punished with a fine of up to $500 and/or jail time of up to 90 days. If you kill someone via your failure to yield to an emergency vehicle, you’ll be charged with a felony.

Passing and turning

Now, let’s go over the rules for passing and turning in Michigan.
Drive in the right lane unless passing or turning. Weaving from lane to lane through traffic is illegal. Use your turn signal every time you change lanes or turn.
In most situations, you should pass on the left. Do not pass more than one vehicle at a time, and return to your lane within 200 feet of oncoming vehicles. You can pass on the right only when the vehicle you’re passing is turning left and there is enough room—the shoulder does not count.
U-turns are generally legal when the turn can be made safely and without interfering with other traffic unless a sign forbids it. 
But what about making a
Michigan left
at a turnaround on a divided highway? Many divided highways have specific left-turn lanes through which you can get to the other side of the highway. You will also have to make a Michigan left if the intersection you want to turn at prohibits left turns. Proceed through the intersection, then make a U-turn in the next designated left turn lane. Then, you’ll return to the intersection and turn right to get on the desired street.

Parking laws

In Michigan, it is illegal to park or stop in these places: 
  • Wherever “No Parking” signs are posted
  • In a bike lane or at a transit stop
  • Within 500 feet of a fire or a crash
  • Within 15 feet of a fire hydrant
  • Within 20 feet of a fire station driveway
  • Within 30 feet of a stop sign, traffic light, or flashing beacon
  • Within 50 feet of the nearest rail at a railway crossing
  • In front of any alley, driveway, theater, emergency exit, or fire escape
  • Next to a road where your parked vehicle will block the view of drivers at the intersection
You may not park within 20 feet of a marked crosswalk, or 15 feet of an intersection with no marked crosswalk.

Michigan speeding laws

Driving at a safe speed limit is one of the most important Michigan traffic laws. In addition to obeying all posted signs, Michigan’s Basic Speed Law MCL 257.627 states that all drivers should drive at a “careful and prudent speed not greater than nor less than is reasonable and proper” according to existing road conditions.
Beyond that, here are a few basic guidelines regarding Michigan speeding laws.

Speed limits

There are speed limit signs posted throughout Michigan, but it can be easy to miss them. To help you drive safely, here are the maximum speed limits in Michigan by area:
  • 15 mph: mobile home parks and some municipal parks
  • 25 mph: platted subdivisions, condo complexes, and roads adjacent to playgrounds, schools, and hospital zones
  • 45 mph: work zones, where posted 
  • 55 mph: all streets not designated freeways and on all highways
  • 70 mph: all freeways unless otherwise posted, but school buses and trucks restricted to 65 mph on these roads
Note that on freeways with speed limits less than 70 mph, school buses and trucks are limited to 55 mph.
Breaking a speeding law in Michigan is a moving violation. In addition to the $125 fine, you will receive demerit points. It’s three demerit points for speeding up to 10 mph over the limit, four points for speeding 10-15 mph over, or five points for speeding more than 15 mph over the posted limit.
If you cause death or injury in a work zone, you’ll be fined up to $7,500 and jail time up to 15 years.

Move over laws

Michigan’s
Emergency Vehicle Caution Law
, aka Move Over Law, requires that all vehicles slow down to 10 mph below the speed limit and move over for stopped emergency and utility vehicles. You must completely yield the right of way to emergency vehicles with their lights flashing.
Failure to yield equals two demerit points and a $400 fine. It counts as a misdemeanor if you fail to yield to solid waste haulers, utility service vehicles, and road maintenance vehicles. If you fail to move over for a stopped emergency vehicle and kill or injure emergency personnel, it’s a felony.

Michigan car accident laws

Car accidents are unpredictable—but you can plan by understanding what the law requires in case of an accident. The most important rule is to stay at the scene after an accident; otherwise, you could be charged with a hit-and-run.
After the accident, exchange information with the other parties. Exchange names, addresses, vehicle registration numbers, and insurance information. Get information for any bystanders, too, in case you need witness accounts later. Call for emergency assistance if necessary.
You must file a police report
within three days
after a car accident in Michigan if someone was killed or injured or if property damage exceeds $1,000. A report is not required otherwise, but it’s still a good idea to have a record on file.
When it’s time to file an insurance claim, you must file a claim with your policy even if you didn’t cause the accident. This requirement simply ensures that everyone can access needed medical care or repair funds through insurance regardless of who caused the accident. 
The state and your insurance agency will still determine which party is to blame, so don’t think this means you won’t face consequences for causing a collision. 
If you flee the scene of an accident, you’ll be charged with a crime—whether or not you caused the accident. Penalties start at $100 and go up to $10,000, with possible jail time, felony charges, demerit points, and license suspension depending on the severity of the crash.
Offense
Penalty
Failure to stop
Misdemeanor: Fine up to $100, up to 90 days in jail
Failure to stop when minor injury occurs
Misdemeanor: Fine up to $1,000, up to 1 year in jail
Failure to stop when serious impairment or death occurs
Felony: Fine up to $5,000, up to 5 years in jail
Failure to stop when death occurs and driver is at fault 
Felony: Fine up to $10,000, up to 15 years in jail
For each of these offenses, you’ll also receive six demerit points. You could also be sued. Undoubtedly, your car insurance premiums will skyrocket as well.

Michigan DUI laws

In Michigan, DUIs are also known as OWIs: Operating While Intoxicated. There’s also something called OWVI, Operating While Visibly Impaired.
Driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs (DUI)
is a serious crime with serious
consequences
.
A DUI or OWI is when an of-age driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) is 0.08 or higher. For a first DUI offense with a BAC below 0.17, here are the penalties in Michigan:
  • Fine up to $500
  • Up to 93 days in jail
  • Six demerit points
  • Up to 6 months license suspension
  • Up to 360 hours of community service
The high-BAC law triggers extra penalties for drivers with a BAC higher than 0.17. In this case, here is the first offense DUI penalties:
  • Fine up to $700
  • Up to six months in jail
  • Six demerit points
  • Up to 12 months of license suspension
  • Up to 360 hours of community service
In addition, these drivers must complete an alcohol treatment program and use an ignition interlock device with a restricted license.
Open containers are generally not allowed unless the vehicle does not have a trunk or separate area from the passenger space. Refusal to take a breathalyzer test if pulled over by police will trigger an automatic one-year suspension of your driver’s license.
The penalties for underage drunk drivers are different. Michigan is a zero-tolerance state, so minors can be charged with a DUI if any amount of alcohol is detected. That includes kombucha! 
First-time underage DUI charges include the following penalties:
  • Fine up to $250
  • Four demerit points
  • License restrictions of up to 30 days
  • Up to 360 hours of community service
Subsequent underage DUI convictions carry more severe penalties:
  • Fine up to $500
  • Four demerit points (six if you are over 21 on the 2nd offense)
  • Up to 93 days in jail
  • License suspension for 90 days or complete revocation
  • Up to 60 days of community service

Michigan distracted driving laws

Michigan is also firmly committed to stopping distracted driving. It is illegal to text or read messages while driving. The penalty is $100 for a first offense and $200 for a second offense.
Kelsey’s Law
prohibits young drivers from using handheld communication devices at all. For breaking this law, drivers could face up to $295 in fines.
In addition to texting, the Michigan driver guidelines specifically ask drivers to be very careful with these distracting activities: 
  • Talking on the phone
  • Eating, drinking, or smoking
  • Adjusting climate or music controls
  • Using a navigation system

Michigan seat belt laws

All front-seat passengers in Michigan must wear a seat belt, according to the
Michigan seat belt laws
. All rear-seat passengers between the ages of 4 and 15 must legally wear a seat belt. Children under the age of 4 must be properly restrained using an age-appropriate child restraint system.
While adult passengers are not legally required to wear seat belts in the back seat in Michigan, we still recommend that all passengers wear seat belts for their own safety. 
A seat belt violation is a primary offense in Michigan, so you can be pulled over just for not wearing a seat belt. It’s a nonmoving violation, so you won’t receive any demerit points—but you will be fined $65.
According to
MLC 257.682b
, it’s illegal for minors to ride in the open bed of a pickup truck at a speed higher than 15 mph on any public roadway.

Vehicle modifications

Michigan only allows tinting on the rear side windows, the rear window if the vehicle has outside mirrors on both sides and the top four inches of the front side windows. If the solar reflectivity is higher than 35%, it’s too dark. Some medical prescriptions allow for tinting the front windows as well.
Interior neon lighting visible from the front must be white or amber. If it’s visible from the rear, it must be red or amber. From the sides, it can be any of these colors. Neon underbody lighting is a gray area, legally speaking, but if present they must be unlit and covered while on a highway.
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FAQs

No. You should stick to the speed limit even while passing. The law states that you should only pass if it’s safe—and if you need to break speeding laws to overtake another vehicle, it’s not safe. 
Yes, DUI has some of the strictest DUI laws in the entire country. Convicted offenders could face jail time, fines, demerit points, and license suspension.
DUIs stay on your record for life. If you are convicted of a DUI, you could face higher auto insurance rates for up to 10 years. 
Eating while driving is not illegal in Michigan, but it is dangerous. You won’t be pulled over unless you drive erratically. That being said, try not to eat while behind the wheel. If you must snack, stick to one-handed snacks, like a hot dog or Better Made chips
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