3rd in my series on little known traffic laws
So, I’ve created a new series of little known traffic laws that I often get asked about. It’s a fun way to share the crazy questions I get at social events or when I meet people and they find out I’ve been practicing as an auto lawyer for the past 20 years. Today, let’s discuss the Michigan “u-turn.”
U-turns are 180-degree rotations used to quickly reverse direction on a road that’s not divided by a median. I’m sure many of us have pulled one or two u-turns when in a rush or when we think no one is looking.
U-turns, it turns out, are technically legal in Michigan. The Michigan Vehicle Code does not prohibit U-turns (or even address them).
But here’s the rub: they are still more dangerous than other types of driving maneuvers. And I caution to avoid making these “u-turn” turns when you can avoid doing so. As an auto accident lawyer, I’ve seen my share of u-turns gone wrong.
It is easy for a driver to underestimate distance and speed of oncoming drivers.
And although u-turns are dangerous yet legal, there are ways you can be penalized for making one:
- The Michigan Vehicle Code requires motorists to obey any and all traffic control devices. If there’s a sign that prohibits a U-turn, a driver who makes this turn can be ticketed.
- The law prohibits drivers from interfering with the normal flow of traffic, so a motorist who impedes traffic by making a U-turn can be cited.
- State law requires motorists to ensure that any turn “can be made in safety” and to use appropriate signals. So the Uniform Traffic Code adopted by many municipalities prohibits a driver from turning around, unless the movement can be made safely and without interfering with traffic.
This is the Michigan law, regarding u-turns:
Under state law and in the absence of a traffic control device prohibiting same, the maneuver may be completed as long as it can be done in safety, is not careless or reckless, and gives way to other traffic that have the right-of-way. This is outside of a city, village, or township that has adopted the Uniform Traffic Code.
Within the boundaries of any city, village, or township, that has adopted the Uniform Traffic Code, rule 434 states:
- The driver of any vehicle shall not turn the vehicle so as to proceed in the opposite direction on any street in a business district and shall not, on any other street, so turn a vehicle unless the movement can be made in safety and without interfering with other traffic.
- A person who violates this rule is responsible for a civil infraction.
Under the Uniform Traffic Code, the requirement of whether or not there must be a sign posted prohibiting u-turns is debatable. Some say yes and some say no.
The final determination of safety and reasonableness will be up to the individual court and judge.
Bottom line: U turns are legal in the absence of other cars or signs profiting u-turns. But they are still dangerous, so avoid making them when you can.