Greenwood: Traffic riddles (mostly) solved

Tom Greenwood
The Detroit News

Do you have any obscure questions about traffic laws in Michigan?

I know I do, which is why I often turn to the website of the Michigan State Police for its frequently asked questions traffic section. Here’s a sample (In some cases, I’ve shortened the answers):

Q: Can a person ride in the back of a pickup?

A: It is unlawful for any person younger than the age of 18 to ride in the open bed of a pickup at a speed greater than 15 mph on a public roadway.

Q: Can I have open alcohol in a trailer that is being pulled on the road?

A: In most cases it is illegal. Limited exceptions include where the vehicle doesn’t have a trunk or separate area from the passenger compartment and in the case of a charter vehicle such as a bus or limousine.

Q: When merging onto a freeway who has the right of way?

A: The person entering the freeway must yield to traffic already on the freeway. But drivers already on the freeway cannot deliberately block a merging driver by speeding up or slowing down.

Q: Are U-turns legal in Michigan?

A: Yes and no. They are legal outside of a city, village or township that follows the Uniform Traffic Code and are done safely and not in a careless or reckless manner.

It is illegal within any city, village or township that has adopted the Uniform Traffic Rule. (Under the UTC 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 will be up to the individual court.)

There are a number of traffic law questions which have rather murky answers, such as:

Q: How far can you drive in a center left turn lane?

A: That depends. When preparing for a left turn a driver can travel a “reasonable” distance in the center turn lane.

Q: Is it legal to ride in a pickup camper secured to the bed of my pickup or in a tow behind camper?

A: Another soupy answer. Michigan law doesn’t prohibit this, however according to Michigan Compiled Laws, children younger than the age of 16 would be prohibited from doing so if there were seats available in the pickup or vehicle towing the camper.

The MSP doesn’t endorse riding in this type of camper ... and the operator and/or registered owner could be liable both criminally and civilly if a passenger is killed or injured while riding in the camper.

Q: Are radar jammers illegal in Michigan?

A: Yes, jammers are illegal in all 50 states. Radar detectors are OK in Michigan but not in Ontario.

For more questions and answers visit the FAQ section of the MSP website at

P.S. The Detroit People Mover is modifying its operational hours from Friday through June 4 so it can conduct maintenance on its rails.

On Friday, the DPM will operate from 6:30 a.m. until midnight. On Saturday, the DPM will operate from 10 a.m. until 2 a.m; from noon until 8 p.m. on Sunday and from 6:30 a.m. until 9 p.m. on Monday.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, it will operate from 6:30 a.m. until 10:30 p.m and from 6:30 a.m. until 9 p.m. on Thursday. Normal hours resume on June 5.

(313) 222-2023.

1. I-75/I-375: In Detroit, the NB I-75 ramp at I-375 is expected to reopen some time early Saturday morning after repairs made from last weekend’s tanker crash/fire.

2. I-75: In Clarkston, there is a double lane closure from 10 p.m. Friday until 9 a.m. Sunday from M-15 to Clintonville for repairs.

3. I-75: In Auburn Hills, the ramp from Chrysler Drive to University Drive/NB I-75 is closed from 9 p.m. Friday until 5 a.m. Monday for repairs.

4. I-94: In Belleville, there is a double lane closure from 9 p.m. Friday until 6 a.m. Monday from EB Rawsonville to Wayne for repairs.

5. I-94: In Detroit, there are moving lane closures from Linwood to Wyoming until 3 p.m. June 7 for repairs.

6. I-94: In Detroit, the ramp from EB to NB I-75 is closed until 5 p.m. June 12 for bridge repairs.

7. I-96: In Livonia, there are double lane closures from 9 p.m. Friday until 5 a.m. Monday on WB I-96/M-14 from Farmington to Sheldon roads for construction. Additionally, there are double lane closures for the same time period on EB from Sheldon to Newburgh.

8. M-3 (Gratiot): In Clinton Township, NB will have one lane closed at M-59 from 9 p.m. Fridayuntil 5 a.m. Monday for road work.

9. 9 Mile: In Ferndale, there will be a total closure of the road at Woodward from 6 a.m. Saturday until noon Sunday.

10. 15 Mile: In Sterling Heights, there is a single lane closure on EB and WB at Van Dyke until 5 pm. Sunday for road work.