Duties of motorist as it relates to traffic stops

A citizen wrote in expressing the following concern, “In the past few months on different occasions, I have noticed troopers parking in live traffic during traffic stops. Although I understand the concept behind this and can appreciate them using their vehicles for protection from other cars and to slow traffic, things have gone too far. Three of the four times I’ve noticed this activity taking place involved both driver-side tires left of the fog line. Two of those times, they were so far into the lane I had to come to a complete stop to pass their vehicle. Is this a technique being supported/endorsed by the MSP or just errant officers?”

As troopers are out on patrol, the largest concern they have during a traffic stop is the safety of the motorist being stopped and the officers who are enforcing Michigan’s Motor Vehicle Code. In the perfect scenario, the person being stopped would pull over in a manner allowing both the patrol car and their vehicle to be positioned off the roadway. This does not always happen or may not be possible due to roadway engineering, natural and artificial topography of the region, thus causing the person being pulled over to come to a stop where they do.

Officers will position their vehicles to provide the maximum allowable safety of the person being stopped and themselves. In 15 of the last 20 years the leading cause of death to law enforcement officers has been traffic-related deaths.

Michigan Vehicle Code under Section 257.653a talks about the duties of the approaching car to a traffic stop. Section 1 of the statute states, “Upon approaching and passing a stationary authorized emergency vehicle that is giving a visual signal by means of flashing, rotating, or oscillating red, blue, or white lights … the driver of an approaching vehicle shall exhibit due care and caution, as required under the following:

(a) On any public roadway with at least 2 adjacent lanes proceeding in the same direction of the stationary authorized emergency vehicle, the driver of the approaching vehicle shall proceed with caution and yield the right-of-way by moving into a lane at least 1 moving lane or 2 vehicle widths apart from the stationary authorized emergency vehicle, unless directed otherwise by a police officer. If movement … is not possible due to weather, road conditions, or the immediate presence of vehicular or pedestrian traffic in parallel moving lanes, the driver of the approaching vehicle shall proceed as required in subdivision (b).

(b) On any public roadway that does not have at least 2 adjacent lanes proceeding in the same direction … the approaching vehicle shall reduce and maintain a safe speed for weather, road conditions, and vehicular or pedestrian traffic and proceed with due care and caution, or as directed by a police officer.

Penalties for violating this statute are as follows:

(2) “You are guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not more than $500 or imprisonment for not more than 90 days, or both.”

(3) “A person violates this section and causes injury to a police officer, firefighter or other emergency response personnel… is guilty of a felony punishable by a fine of not more than $1,000 or imprisonment for not more than two years, or both.”

(4) “A person who violates this section and causes death to a police officer, firefighter or other emergency response personnel… is guilty of a felony punishable by a fine of not more than $7,500 or by imprisonment for not more than 15 years, or both”.

This statue not only applies to law enforcement officers, tt also applies for firefighters, EMS and ambulance staff and also tow truck drivers whose lights are activated.

Officers do the best they can to keep everyone safe on Michigan’s roads, however it does inconvenience other motorists sometimes. After seeing funerals of fallen officers struck by passing motorists during traffic stops, that short inconvenience in a commuter’s time is a small price to pay compared to the sacrifices the fallen officer and their families made.

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 asktroopersimpson@gmail.com or mail them to Ask A Trooper, Michigan State Police – Alpena Post, 3283 W. Washington Ave, Alpena, MI 49707.