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Michigan Driving and Traffic Laws

The traffic laws that govern the roads of Michigan are put into place in order to protect you and your family. They also protect other drivers. If you are found to be in violation of any traffic laws, you will be subjected to the penalties prescribed by Michigan state law regardless of whether or not you are a resident there or not. Depending on the infraction committed, these penalties range from small fines all the way up to jail time or the revocation of your license. Familiarizing yourself with the traffic laws in this beautiful state will allow you to avoid making such costly mistakes.

Recently, Michigan lawmakers have taken steps to enact stricter punishments for those who are convicted of diving under the influence. In 2009, 31% of all traffic related fatalities were attributed to alcohol. The laws pertaining to driving under the influence in Michigan specifically state that it is illegal for a motorist to operate a vehicle if he or she has a .08% or above blood alcohol concentration. This percentage is even lower for commercial truckers and motorists who are under twenty one years of age. Rather than referring to driving under the influence as a DUI, Michigan prefers to call it OWL, or operation while intoxicated. In addition to OWL, Michigan has another law that is called OWVI, or operating while visibly impaired. According to the guidelines of this law, if either drugs or alcohol is found to be in your body, then your ability to operate a motor vehicle was visibly impaired. The penalties for such an offense become increasingly stiffer for those who are found to have Schedule 1 drugs (i.e. cocaine or barbiturates) in your system.

In Michigan, if you are convicted of your first DUI offense, then you can be sentenced to up to ninety three days in jail. Your license can be suspended for up to six months, although you will be eligible for a restricted license after thirty days. You will also have six points added to your driver's license record. The amount you will be fined can range from $100 to $500, excluding court costs. You will also incur what is called a driver responsibility fee. This amount is generally $1,000, and you will be required to pay it for two years consecutively. The other possibilities for punishment can include being sentenced to up to 360 hours of community service or being required to have an ignition interlock device installed on your car.

Should you happen to be convicted of your second offense, your jail time will range from five days up to one year. Your license will be suspended for a minimum of one year, and another six points will be added to your driver's license. At this point with so many points added to a license, most Michigan car insurance companies will begin to deny you coverage. Your license plate will be confiscated, rendering your vehicle unable to be driven, and your car may be impounded for ninety days up to a maximum of 180 days. Your fines will be higher; you will be required to pay the driver responsibility fee; and you will be required to have the ignition interlock device installed on your car.

A third conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol is considered a felony offense. Your prison time will increase up to five years. In addition to the other aforementioned punishments, you may be sentenced to 180 days worth of community service.

As with most other states, Michigan operates under an implied consent law. Essentially, what this does is state that if a driver is pulled over by a police officer and arrested on suspicion of drunk driving, he or she will submit to a chemical test to check their blood or urine for drug or alcohol content. To refuse to do so in Michigan will lead the motorist to receive a license suspension for one year and you will have six points added to their driver's license record. If you refuse the test within a seven year period following your first refusal, you will be subjected to the same penalties with the exception that your license will be suspended for two years.

Again, as with most other states, in order to reinstate your driver's license in Michigan, you will be required to file an SR22 with Michigan's Department of Motor Vehicles. The SR22 is a certificate issued by your insurance provider certifying that you do meet the state's minimum requirements for insurance. In Michigan, such a document must remain on file for three years after your date of reinstatement.

The other area of traffic violation that Michigan is attempting to crack down upon heavily is the usage of cellular phones by motorists who are operating a vehicle. While bills have been introduced in the Michigan State Congress, one has yet to be passed that all parties can agree upon. Thus, as of today, Michigan does not have a state wide cell phone law in effect. However, because it has become a topic of such intense debate, Michigan does allow its cities and incorporated towns to devise and enforce their own cell phone regulation laws within their municipalities. For example, the city of Detroit passed a law in 2005 known as the Detroit Hands Free Law. Other states are also taking similar steps in allowing cites to determine their own ordinances. You can check with the local Department of Motor Vehicles in your city to ascertain any ordinances that may be in effect for your community.

The Detroit Hands Free Law explicitly creates the use of a hand held cellular phone while operating a motor vehicle to be a civil infraction. The violation of this law is considered to be only a secondary offense. Because this new bill is considered a secondary offense, a policy officer cannot pull a driver over for it or ticket the motorist for it unless the secondary offense is accompanied by a primary offense, such as speeding or another moving violation. The critics of this new law argue that the effectiveness of the law is severely reduced because the law is not specifically aimed at a motorist who may be flagrantly talking on a mobile phone without the approved hands free device. However, despite its detractors, the law remains in effect as is. The penalties for violation of this law are a fine that will not exceed $100. There are exceptions to this law made for drivers who are in an emergency situation or who may be on-duty public service workers.

Each state in the country has devised its own sets of rules in order to ascertain the safety of its motorists. These laws are in place to protect you and other motorists. It is mandated by law that you must adhere to these traffic rules. Any infraction or disregarding of the rules can result in penalties or worse dependent upon the seriousness of the offense. In addition to the laws mentioned above, Michigan maintains strict financial responsibility laws regarding vehicle insurance. It would behoove you to invest time investigating the laws. Research is your key to prevention. Be proactive.



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