q&a: What are the rules about leaving a disabled vehicle on the side of the road?
Behind the Blue Line — Michigan State Police Trooper Duane Zook takes your law enforcement questions
Question: How long can I leave my disabled vehicle along a roadway?
Answer: In Michigan, a vehicle may be left along a state trunk-line highway — including freeways such as I-94, US-12, and M-14 — and shall not be removed until the vehicle is tagged as abandoned and 18 hours have elapsed from that time. On secondary roads such as Platt or Carpenter, 48 hours has to elapse.
However, there are exceptions to this rule. If a vehicle is abandoned along a highway or roadway and is considered a hazard, partially blocking the roadway or lane of travel, the vehicle can immediately be removed. Other reasons for immediate removal of an abandoned vehicle would be during a weather emergency, prior to a presidential motorcade, or if the vehicle has improper registration or none at all. On private property, the property owner can have a vehicle removed immediately by contacting a local wrecker service.
What are the potential legal ramifications of leaving a vehicle abandoned? Under MCL 257.252a, if a vehicle is abandoned after it appears to have broken down on the road, the appropriate citation would be “Abandoning a Motor Vehicle." So, yes, you can potentially be fined for leaving a vehicle abandoned. You can also receive a citation for “Abandoning a Vehicle as Litter" under MCL 324.8902 and MCL 324.8905a.
What should you do in case your vehicle becomes disabled? First notify your local police agency, and state what your intentions are to have the vehicle removed. If more than 18 or 48 hours is needed for you to make arraignments to have the vehicle removed, let us know. Most agencies will attempt to accommodate people who advise what exactly is going on with their vehicle.
Secondly, if your vehicle is impounded, make sure you pick up the vehicle from the wrecker service as soon as possible. This could save you a great deal of money. Lastly, keep in mind the vehicle is your responsibility. The vehicle will be impounded at your expense. If you decide to leave the vehicle at a wrecker company with the intention of never picking it up, you may want to reconsider by signing the vehicle title over to the wrecker company. A wrecker company may file civil suit to obtain payment after all other options have been exhausted.
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