Road Trip in Michigan

Driving through the Great Lakes State certainly involves a lot of bridges and beachside views, but Michigan's topography includes plenty of meadows and farmland, as well, and the mitten and Upper Peninsula are both full of quaint towns and bigger cities alike.

Driving through Michigan can be a beautiful experience, but the state's variation makes it important understand the rules of the road, as well as what there is to do.

Major Michigan Roadways

Michigan is a very large state, but there are several key roadways that will take you nearly anywhere you want to go.

  • Interstate 75.
    • Michigan's longest highway, the road begins in the south at the state border near Toldeo, Ohio, and runs through to the Upper Peninsula, reaching Sault Sainte Marie before crossing into Canada. Aside from cutting through Detroit, the highway can connect you to a number of Circle Tour routes circumnavigating some of the Great Lakes. I-75 is also intermittently known by other names in Michigan, including:
      • The Fisher Freeway.
      • The Walter P. Chrysler Freeway.
      • The G. Mennen Williams Freeway.
      • The Prentiss M. Brown Freeway.
      • The American Legion Memorial Highway.
  • Interstate 96.
    • Michigan's primary east-west route, this major roadway starts off with a bang in Detroit in the east, before making its way to Norton Shores in the west, offering exits for Lansing and Grand Rapids along the way.
  • Interstate 94.
    • Running primarily east-west, I-94 begins at the Canadian border, near Port Huron before dipping south through Detroit and leveling back out, continuing westward to New Buffalo, where it exits the state in the west. This highway also has exits for Ann Arbor, home of the University of Michigan.
  • Interstate 69.
    • Arching upward through the heart of the state, I-69 begins at the Indiana border near Kinderhook before passing northward through Lansing, MI, where the road takes an easterly turn, running through Flint before terminating at the Canadian border near Port Huron. The highway also connects to a Lake Huron Circle Tour.

MI Traffic Laws

Just as with every other state, Michigan has its own unique laws when it comes to how to drive on MI roads.

Michigan Speed Limits

Speed limits will vary depending on location, but generally, the state has a few broad speed categories, including:

  • Mobile home parks and some municipal parks: 15 MPH.
  • Business districts, school zones, some neighborhoods and some county and federal roads: 25 MPH.
  • Some work zones: 45 MPH.
  • Highways and streets not designated as freeways: 55 MPH.
  • Freeways: 70 MPH.

Michigan also sometimes employs a minimum speed limit. Some freeways have minimum speed limits of 55 MPH, but make sure to check the signs on the specific freeway you're on.

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Seatbelts & Car Seats

All front seat passengers—including the driver—must wear a seatbelt in Michigan, as well as all passengers under 16 years old, regardless of where they sit.

Michigan's car seat and child safety laws are as follows:

  • Children under 8 years old or shorter than 4 ft 9 inches must be fastened in the proper restraint system/booster seat for their age, height, and weight.
  • Children under 4 years old must sit in the rear seat of the car unless all rear seats are already taken by children in this age group.
  • Rear-facing car seats may only be placed in the front seat of a car if the airbag has been deactivated.
  • Passengers under 18 years old are prohibited from riding in the open bed of a pickup truck going over 15 MPH unless it is being driven:
    • For farming, construction, or military purposes.
    • In a parade.
    • By emergency personnel.

Cell Phones & Driving

There is currently no state law prohibiting MI drivers from using a cell phone while driving.

However, if you do commit a traffic violation while on the phone, you could possibly be charged with careless driving.

It is also possible some Michigan municipalities have specific cell phone-related legislation. Find the local municipal websites where you will be driving to check on any geographically-specific laws.

Motorcycle Laws in MI

It is illegal for a motorist to ride side-by-side in the same lane as a motorcyclist in Michigan.

If you ride a motorcycle through the state, you must wear a helmet if you are under 21 years old.

After that point, you may not wear a helmet ONLY if you:

  • Have at least $20,000 in first-party medical benefits.
    AND
  • Have had your motorcycle license for at least 2 years.
    OR
  • Have passed an approved motorcycle safety course.

Passengers may also legally decline to wear a helmet if they have at least $20,000 in first-party medical benefits in addition to the insurance required of the operator.

MI School Bus Laws

If a school bus' red overhead lights are flashing, you must stop at least 20 feet from the school bus, and remain stopped until the lights turn off.

This law does not apply ONLY if you're driving the opposite direction of the bus on a highway divided by a barrier.

Making a “Michigan Left"

A truly unique aspect of Michigan driving, the Michigan left is common in the Great Lakes State at many urban intersections.

In many circumstances, you will not be permitted to turn left directly at an intersection. Instead, you will have to either continue on straight, or get into the right-hand lane where you will eventually be able to make a U-turn to get back to the street you wanted to turn down.

There should always be roadway signs to guide you through making a Michigan left.

Michigan Destinations

The state boasts many cool places to check out that are unique to Michigan and worthy of any road trip.

Detroit

Michigan's largest city, Motown is home to a number of parks, museums, music and performance venues and all of the state's pro sports stadiums. Among the city's individual neighborhoods are Greektown, which boasts not only a casino but a number of restaurants featuring the best Mediterranean cuisine, and historic Corktown, the city's oldest neighborhood, which features a number of eateries, bars, and boutique stores.

And you can't leave the city without making an important decision: Which Coney Island hot dog restaurant is the best? After the two entrepreneurial brothers who started the eatery in Detroit had a family feud over how to run business, they each opened their own shop, and Michiganders to this day define themselves based on whether they're pro-American Coney Island or team Lafayette Coney Island.

Ann Arbor

Home of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor is great place to go if you love football—and, with the team's stadium ranking as the second largest stadium in the world, the more fans that visit with you, the merrier. For those less interested in sports, Ann Arbor also offers a number of museums, beautiful parks, shopping, food, and even a botanical garden.

Great Lake Circle Tours

They don't call it the Great Lakes State for nothing. With nearly every border following one of the huge bodies of water, Michigan is a great place to get in some lakeside views, camping, fishing, and any other maritime recreation.

Great Lake Circle Tours are comprised of a number of different highways—many spanning across several states and the Canadian province of Ontario—taking you around the waterways. In Michigan alone, you can access the:

  • Lake Superior Circle Tour.
  • Lake Michigan Circle Tour.
  • Lake Huron Circle Tour.
  • Lake Eerie Circle Tour.

Mackinac Island/Mackinac Bridge

Located in Lake Huron, right at the tip of Michigan's mitten (the Lower Peninsula), this isle offers the chance to enjoy anything from quaint and quiet beach weekends to high-end food tasting to late night fun. The way there is equally as beautiful, as you can board a ferry from either Mackinaw City (Lower Peninsula) or St. Ignace (Upper Peninsula).

Grand Haven Lighthouse

Located on the Lake Michigan coast, this historic lighthouse, often beautifully bounded by ice or snow, is at the edge of the Grand Haven South Pier. Grand Haven is equally as beautiful in the summer, where many people enjoy the beach.

Keweenaw Peninsula

About as “up" in the Upper Peninsula as you can get, this area along Lake Superior is a great place to get away. Its rich wildlife makes it a great place for hiking, camping, fishing, biking, bird watching, or a number of other outdoor activities. The peninsula also has a number of waterfalls, museums, and even a ghost town.

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