You can turn left on a red light in Michigan if you are turning left from a 1-way or 2-way street onto a 1-way street if the traffic is traveling in the direction of your left turn. While you can turn left on a red light, bicyclists, pedestrians, and all traffic using the street have the right of way and you must yield before turning left.
Most people raised in Michigan have done this. We’re reasonably sure that somebody somewhere (maybe it was 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 on a red. Contrast that with what happens when you have a visitor from another state in your car where this is not allowed. Your visitor tells you this is definitely illegal and you have to wait for the light to turn green.
So who is right? In today’s blog post, we will answer this question in full detail.
When can you turn left on a red light in Michigan?
Michigan law allows you to turn left on a red light so long as you stop before entering the intersection and so long as you are turning onto a 1-way street that is “carrying traffic in the direction of the left turn.” This applies whether you are turning from a 1-way or 2-way street. (MCL 257.612(1)(c)(ii))
Can you turn left on a red light in Michigan onto a 2-way street?
No, you can’t onto a 2-way street. You can only turn left on a red light in Michigan if you are turning onto a 1-way street and the traffic on the street must be going in the same direction as your left turn.
What if there are bicyclists or pedestrians lawfully in the crosswalk or if there is oncoming traffic?
If there are bicyclists or pedestrians lawfully in the crosswalk on the street that you are turning onto, then you must yield the right of way to them. You must also yield the right of way to vehicle traffic traveling on the street that you are turning onto.
What if there is a sign saying you can’t?
You cannot if it is “prohibited by sign, signal, marking, light, or other traffic control device.” (MCL 257.612(1)(c)(ii))
Michigan law requires that a sign prohibiting a left turn on a red light “shall be located above or adjacent to the traffic control signal or as close as possible to the point where the turn is made, or at both locations, so that 1 or more of the signs are visible to a vehicle operator intending to turn, at the point where the turn is made. An additional sign may be used at the far side of the intersection in the direct line of vision of the turning vehicle operator.” (MCL 257.612(5))
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