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Can a driver legally turn left on a red light in Michigan?

Accident attorney discusses when  law allows a left turn on a red light

red light turn law Michigan

Most of us have made a left turn on a red light. It feels natural, and somewhere in the back of our minds we’re sure that somebody somewhere (e.g., your high school biology teacher who doubled as your driver’s ed instructor way back when) told us it was legal to make a left turn on a red light.

But is it?  When is turning left on red legal under Michigan law?

That’s the question asked by a recent visitor to the Michigan Auto Law Forums, which is an interactive legal question and answer feature on our Michigan Auto Law website, where people can have their legal questions about auto accidents and our No Fault auto insurance laws answered free of charge by our experienced accident attorneys.

Q. “What is the law in regards to turning on a red light? I am familiar with turning right on red, but I every day, I end up in the left-turn lane at a red light on two-way street. I’m trying to turn left to a one-way street. I always see people making the left turn on red. There are no signs that clarify whether this is allowed or against the law. I think I remember seeing that turning onto a one-way street while at a red light is permissible (a very long time ago), but I don’t want to find out that I’m wrong the hard way.”

A. The short answer is that generally, a Michigan driver may turn left on a red light, as long as the street the driver is turning left onto is one-way, going in the same direction as the left turn.

Here is the actual Michigan law and the permissibility of turning left on a red light:

According to MCL 257.612(1)(c)(ii) of the Michigan Vehicle Code: “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. …”

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“The vehicular traffic shall yield the right of way to pedestrians and bicyclists lawfully within an adjacent crosswalk and to other traffic lawfully using the intersection.”

Related information:

The flashing yellow turn signal: What does it mean?

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2 comments on “Can a driver legally turn left on a red light in Michigan?

  1. Jim Newton on said:

    My understanding of the law is you can make a left turn on red if the only direction you can turn is left. You cannot turn left on a one way if you also have the option of going straight ahead when the light changes to green.

    • Evan Kempisty on said:

      You must be able to turn left even if you could go straight because it specifies from a 2 way street onto a 1 way street. The only way it could be from a 2 way street were if there were a way to go straight or else it’d just be a 1 way onto a 1 way. Correct? I’m confused about this because there’s one specific light around me I want to turn on because the light takes forever and there’s always opportunity.

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