Guide to Driving in Detroit and Michigan

Main Street, Royal Oak
••• Main Street, Royal Oak. Photo © Laura Sternberg, Licensed to About.com

Whether you are new to the state, just traveling through, or a little out of date when it comes to driving laws and/or roadway changes, the following information should help you navigate the roads when driving in Detroit and Michigan.

Seat Belts and Restraints

Gotta have 'em. Enough said? Well, you should know that seat belt use is only mandatory in Michigan for anyone sitting in the front seat, but note that there are different laws for kids.

Children and Car-Seat Laws

Kids (under 16 years of age) must be buckled in regardless of where they are located within the car. Additionally, children under four must ride in a car seat, and children under eight must ride in a booster seat. This should go without saying, but don't stick kids in the back of a pickup.

Motorcycle Helmets

A recent amendment to Michigan's Helmet Law made some changes when it comes to helmet use. Since the change, you'll often see motorcycle riders without helmets. Generally speaking, a helmet is still required unless a person 21 years of age or older has met certain requirements, like passing a motorcycle safety course and taking out additional insurance.

Driving Drunk or High

Yeah...don't. Generally speaking, Michigan's Heidi's Law prohibits operating a vehicle while intoxicated (“OWI”). So what does this mean? Well, first of all, take note that intoxication can be achieved through the use of alcohol, prescription drugs, marijuana, cocaine or any other “intoxicating substance.”

Intoxication is proven through either observational evidence by the arresting officer that the driver was “driving under the influence” or by exceeding the legal breath or blood alcohol limit. Note: The blood alcohol limit is Michigan is 0.08 percent. If you're under 21, however, Michigan has zero tolerance, which means the legal limit is 0.02 percent. There are no sobriety checkpoints.

Cell Phones/Texting

Generally, you can talk on the phone but can't text someone while driving a motor vehicle that is moving.

Specifically:

  • Drivers of commercial motor vehicles and school buses, as well as people with learner's permits or intermediate licenses, can't text or talk on hand-held phones.
     
  • The City of Detroit has an ordinance that bans the use of hand-held cell phones.

Liability

Michigan is a no-fault insurance state.

Roadway Rules

Different state s have different rules of the road. Michigan's Roadway Rules and Traffic Laws will give you a nice summary of the basics, including how to approach a “Michigan Left” and Roundabout.

Freeways and Highways

Michigan has an extensive system of freeways and highways. Some of their unique characteristics, including local names, passing rules, toll roads, rest areas, traffic, lane usage, entrance ramps, and flow of traffic, are set out in Driving on Freeways and Highways in Michigan.

Speeding

Let's face it, speeding seems to mean different things to different people in different places. When driving in Michigan, you should know the maximum speed limits on both rural and urban interstates, as well as information about the flow of traffic and speed-limit enforcement.

Check out Speeding in Michigan.

Winter Driving Safety

While Michigan winters are no means consistent, especially around the Detroit area, drivers will undoubtedly encounter more than a little of the white stuff. Of course, it helps to know what to expect on Detroit-area roads in regard to snow and ice, ​how to prepare for winter driving, and some winter driving skills.

Tips

It's not all about the rules of the road, sometimes it's the length of the trip or the cost of the travel. If you're planning to travel in or around the state, it will help you to keep informed about:

  • Where to Find Low-Priced Gas: GasBuddy.com keeps tabs on gas prices around the country. Generally speaking, gas prices in Michigan tend to be a bit higher than the national average. As of this writing, the price of gas in Michigan was the 18th highest by states. The site also gives you the Michigan average as keeps track of the gas stations with the lowest prices. You can also look up the lowest gas prices by neighborhood or city.
     
  • How to Estimate the Cost of a Particular Trip: You can also figure out the gas cost of any trip your planning by checking out the trip cost calculator on the GasBuddy.com website.
     
  • Driving Distances: To find out how many miles lie and the expected travel time between Detroit and places beyond, including Cedar Point, Chicago and Mackinaw City, check out Driving Distances from Detroit.

Sources and Resources

Traffic Laws FAQs / Michigan State Police

Michigan Highway Safety Laws / Governors Highway Safety Association

Digest of Michigan Motor Laws / AAA

Summary of Michigan's DUI Laws / Michigan Drunk Driving Law Firm

Michigan Text and Cell Phone Laws / Michigan Legislative Website