The Michigan law on right turns on red can be a little murky
In December 2009, I wrote a piece about legally permitted turns on red traffic signals. At the time, several commenters reported being ticketed for making turns on red traffic signals from lanes that were designated with signs indicating “right” or “left.” If those intersections didn't have signs specifically indicating “NO TURN ON RED,” those tickets were improper based on my research.
The entire law for making turns on red traffic signals is contained in the Michigan Vehicle Code Section 257.612 (1)(C )(ii).
Drivers in Michigan can make certain turns on a red traffic signal, but only after coming to a complete stop before entering a crosswalk, intersection or crossing a limit line (also known as a “stop bar”). Obviously, drivers must also yield to any oncoming traffic or pedestrians prior to making any turn on red.
Drivers can make a right turn on a red traffic signal from a one-way or two-way street onto a one-way or two-way street. Drivers also can make a left turn on a red traffic signal from a one-way or two-way street onto a one-way street only. Those left turns onto one-way streets may include expressway on ramps and boulevard left turns (also known as Michigan lefts). However, when making a boulevard left turn — like westbound Jackson Road west of Zeeb Road in front of the Meijer store — drivers are prohibited from driving straight across the roadway into a driveway (FAQ 5 and 7 at http://www.michigan.gov/msp/0,1607,7-123-1586_27094-73839--,00.html#rules).
I contacted the Michigan State Police Traffic Safety Division with the question about traffic signals marked with “right” or “left,” and I was told those are lane designations only. Once in that specific lane, a driver must make the turn indicated by that “right” or “left” sign. Those lane designations have nothing to do with whether a turn can be made at a red signal there. I was also informed that this question is often asked of the MSP Traffic Safety Division.
According to the MSP Traffic Safety Division, only signs, signals, marking, light, or other traffic control device prohibiting turns on red can prohibit legal turns on a red signal. Those signs are the ones that usually read “NO TURN ON RED.” Furthermore, those signs have to be placed in front of the stop bar or crosswalk.
Prior to doing the research, I had heard from several officers that they believe those lane designators had the effect of prohibiting the turn on red. Of the officers I spoke to, none had written such a ticket, believing the law was a bit murky so it would be a rather weak violation. Hopefully, this article will clear up any confusion on that particular aspect of legally permitted turns on red. Remember — if ever in doubt whether a turn on red is legal or not, just wait for the light to turn green.
Lock it up, don’t leave it unattended, be aware and watch out for our neighbors.
Rich Kinsey is a retired Ann Arbor police detective sergeant who now blogs about crime and safety for AnnArbor.com.