Driving to Michigan: Tips, Tricks, and Laws

Get ready for your trip to Michigan with this guide that will help you plan your route, avoid traffic, and follow the rules of the road.
Written by Sarah Gray
Reviewed by Jessica Barrett
Updated on Mar 23, 2023
Michigan has two of the busiest international toll bridges in terms of trade volume, but traffic is generally pretty easy to navigate, even in the larger cities.
From beautiful fall colors to long lakeside drives, Michigan has a lot to offer in terms of road trips. While Michigan’s traffic is pretty tame compared to the rest of the nation, Great Lakes winters wreak havoc on the state’s roads, leaving them cracked and full of potholes, even outside of big cities. Add in a few “Michigan lefts,” and you’ve got a recipe for some pretty confused drivers.
We've assembled this guide to help you make sure you’re hitting the road in Michigan with a well-planned route, solid knowledge of road conditions, and tricks for avoiding heavy traffic.
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The best routes for driving to Michigan

No matter what your starting point is, we can help you find a great route for your drive to Michigan. Here are some of the most popular routes:
  • New York City
    (11 hours): Take the Northern route along ON 401 for a Canadian adventure. This trip is full of beautiful scenery, including Niagara Falls.
  • Atlanta
    to Detroit (12 hours): Take a trip up I-75 to experience some great musical variety. From the hip-hop capital to rock city, you’re sure to encounter a sound you love.
  • San Francisco
    Mackinaw City
    (38 hours): Do a little island hopping, starting with Alcatraz in California and ending with a ferry out to Mackinac Island. You’ll have to leave your car on the Michigan mainland, though, because most vehicles are banned on Mackinac Island.
  • New Orleans
    Grand Rapids
    : (16 hours): Head out of New Orleans on the Great River Road then end your trip on I-57 North.

How good are Michigan’s roads?

Michigan might be known for a lot of things, but good roads are not one of them. In the Great Lakes State, the annual cycle of freezing and thawing wreaks havoc on Michigan pavement, creating
some of the worst driving conditions
in the country. 
If you’re able to steer clear of major city streets, though, you can find some of the most scenic driving the country has to offer.

Does Michigan have toll roads?

No. There are no toll roads in the state of Michigan, though there are a few toll bridges and tunnels, mostly located along the state’s northern border with Canada. 
Michigan has two toll bridges:
  • Mackinac Bridge is part of I-75 that spans the Straits of Mackinac to connect St. Ignace at the north end with Mackinaw City at the south end. Locals call it “Big Mac” or “Mighty Mac,” and it’ll cost you $4.00 to cross.
  • Grosse Ile Toll Bridge crosses the Detroit River to connect Grosse Ile Township to mainland Michigan in Riverview. Crossing costs $2.50. You can save some cash by getting a bridge pass to save 50 cents per crossing.
Michigan also has three International bridges connecting the US and Canada:
  • The Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge at the northern terminus of I-75 connects the twin cities of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan and Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. Two-axle passenger vehicles pay $3.50 USD (or $4.50 CAD) to cross.
  • The Blue Water Bridge crosses the St. Clair River to connect I-69 and I-94 in Port Huron, Michigan with ON402 in Point Edward, Ontario. Two-axle cars and RVs pay $3.00 to cross.
  • The Ambassador Bridge connects Detroit with Windsor, Ontario, and has the highest trade volume of any international border crossing in North America. Two-axle passenger vehicles pay $6.00 to cross.
Michigan also has one toll tunnel:
  • The Detroit–Windsor Tunnel helps alleviate some of the traffic on the Ambassador Bridge by connecting Jefferson Avenue (near I-375 and M-10) in Detroit and Goyeau Street in Windsor. Two-axle passenger vehicles pay $5.00 to use the tunnel.
If your plans include spending a lot of time at the north end of I-75, you might consider signing up for one of the many
discounted toll cards
available for Michigan’s toll bridges and tunnel. Cards can save you anywhere from 50 cents to $2.00 per crossing.

How bad is Michigan traffic?

While the roads in Michigan have seen better days, traffic is fairly tame. Large cities, such as Grand Rapids and Detroit, see heavy traffic and congestion from daily rush hours, but traffic is otherwise rated as about average for the US as a whole. 
Whatever your reason for driving through Michigan, aim to avoid larger cities around rush hour, or hit them on the weekends when traffic is lighter.
Key Takeaway Michigan may have some of the poorest road conditions in the nation, but traffic is generally not bad if you can avoid rush hour in large cities.
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What are Michigan’s speeding laws?

Michigan has two types of speeding laws—a basic speeding law and absolute limits. Let’s take a look at how each law breaks down and what fines you may face for breaking them.
  • Basic speeding law: Michigan’s basic speed law requires drivers to “have due regard to the traffic, surface, and width of the highway and of any other condition existing at the time.” Sure, the posted speed limit might be 70 mph, but that doesn’t mean you should be driving that in a Michigan snowstorm.
  • Absolute speed limit: Michigan’s absolute speed limits include (unless otherwise posted): 
  • 25 miles per hour in business districts
  • 25 miles per hour in residential districts
  • 25 miles per hour within the boundaries of a public park
  • 55 miles per hour on truck-line and county highways
  • 55 miles per hour on gravel highways
  • 70 miles per hour on limited-access freeways.
If you drive faster than an absolute speed limit, you’ve broken the law, and you’ll get a ticket.

Fines for speeding in Michigan

A speeding ticket in Michigan is considered a civil infraction and is accompanied by fines of up to $100 and up to $100 in court costs. Depending on the driver’s speed and other circumstances, additional penalties may apply—such as demerit points and reckless driving charges.
If your ticket
adds points to your driving record
, you’ll likely see your insurance rates increase as a result. But don’t worry,
can help you get the best coverage at the best price, even with a few tickets on your record.

What are Michigan’s alcohol laws?

Like their speeding laws, Michigan’s alcohol laws are pretty simple to understand: It is illegal for drivers over 21 to exhibit a BAC over 0.08% and it is illegal for those under 21 to drive with a BAC higher than 0.02%
Since Michigan recognizes that even a single drink can impair your ability to drive, officers can pull over and arrest a driver regardless of their BAC if they’re exhibiting signs of impairment while operating a motor vehicle. For a full explanation of Michigan’s BAC laws, as well as descriptions of fines for both standard and high-BAC (over 0.17%) violations, check out the
Michigan State Police page
Like its speeding and DUI laws, Michigan’s open container laws are very straightforward. In Michigan, it is illegal to drive with an open container of alcohol in the car—period. It is also illegal to have alcohol in the car, even if it’s sealed, if there is not at least one person over 21 also in the vehicle. 
Alcohol violations
have serious consequences in every state, including license suspensions, fines, legal fees, and even possible jail time. Keep your driving privileges and keep those in and around your car safe by avoiding driving after you’ve had anything to drink.

Can you use headphones while driving in Michigan?

Unlike many states, Michigan law does not expressly prohibit the wearing of headphones or earbuds while driving. However, this doesn’t mean that it’s not still a dangerous practice that all drivers should avoid.

What are some of Michigan’s best road trips?

Getting through the legal aspects of Michigan driving can seem a bit daunting, but now it’s time to focus on the fun—road trips! Anytime is a great time to visit, but if you’re headed to the Great Lakes State, check out our idea for a
road trip to the most haunted places in Michigan
Haunted tourism is great for the spooky season, but anytime you’re in Michigan, here’s a list of
the best castles in Michigan to visit
. Whether you’re looking for the perfect fairy tale wedding venue or you want to check out historical records at the beautiful and historical Hoyt Library, Michigan has a castle for you.

How to find affordable car insurance in Michigan

Driving in Michigan is pretty simple, but that doesn’t mean you should skimp on  reliable car insurance. Before you head up North, let
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car insurance
coverage to be sure you have the best coverage at the best price.
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The high population density and volume of international traffic make Detroit the worst city in Michigan to drive in. Though winters can be rough, cities in Northern Michigan are much easier to navigate due to lower populations.
From the northern tip of the Upper Peninsula to the southern tip of the Lower Peninsula is about 490 miles long and it takes about 10 hours to drive.
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