Proper use of the left turn lane

I always have people ask about the proper way to travel when there is a passing lane present. They usually comment about how they have noticed many motorists using the left travel lane of the highway while they are not passing any other vehicles. They continue by explaining when drivers do this, are just using it as a lane of travel which causes other drivers to become frustrated with the motorist as they are blocking the lane for the use of passing.

MCL 257.634 discusses Roadway divided into two or more marked lanes. Within the statute, it specifically addresses using the left lane: If the road has two or more lanes in one direction, vehicles shall be driven in the extreme right-hand lane. If all lanes are occupied by vehicles moving in substantially continuous lanes of traffic, then a driver can use any lane available. A driver may also use the left lane for a reasonable distance when preparing for a left turn.

Simply put, this law says that all motorists must use the far right lane of the road unless they are actively passing or about to make a left turn. The law also allows for using the left lane if enough vehicles are on the roadway that all the lanes are occupied by vehicles. There is more about this issue in another law.

Within MCL 257.642 it states, “Upon a roadway with four or more lanes which provides for two-way movement of traffic, a vehicle shall be driven within the extreme right-hand lane except when overtaking and passing, but shall not cross the center line of the roadway except where making a left turn.”

This law applies to two-way roadways with four lanes (two in each direction.) For example, M-32 between M-65 S and M-65 N in Lachine. Anyone who is found in violation of this statute can be cited with a civil infraction.

Keep this law in mind as you travel and always be mindful of other motorists. Keeping the left lane clear for passing and turning left improves the flow of traffic. This practice is also beneficial to emergency responders, who use the left lane when responding to an emergency.

Ashley Simpson is a Community Service Trooper for the MSP Alpena Post. If you have a question for Trooper Simpson, you can email her at or mail them to Ask A Trooper, Michigan State Police – Alpena Post, 3283 W. Washington Ave, Alpena, MI 49707.