State Rep. Robert Wittenberg, D-Huntington Woods, introduced a bill that would amend a section in the Michigan Vehicle Code that tells drivers to give an audible signal to let another driver know when they’re overtaking them on the road.

State Rep. Robert Wittenberg, D-Huntington Woods, introduced a bill that would amend a section in the Michigan Vehicle Code that tells drivers to give an audible signal to let another driver know when they’re overtaking them on the road.

Photo by Mike Koury


Local state representative introduces bill to override 1949 passing law

Antiquated law requires ‘audible signal’ while overtaking a vehicle

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published February 14, 2018

LANSING — A local state representative has introduced a bill that would override an outdated 1949 law governing drivers overtaking another vehicle on the road.

State Rep. Robert Wittenberg, D-Huntington Woods, introduced House Bill 5504 on Jan. 30, which would amend a section in the Michigan Vehicle Code that encourages drivers to give an audible sign, such as honking their horns, to let another driver know when they’re overtaking them on the road.

In one section of the law, it states, “Except when overtaking and passing on the right is permitted, the driver of an overtaken vehicle shall give way to the right in favor of the overtaking vehicle on audible signal and shall not increase the speed of his or her vehicle until completely passed by the overtaking vehicle.”

The key phrase in this particular section is “on audible signal,” and that is the focus of the bill that Wittenberg introduced.

“You’re literally just taking out the section that says ‘on audible signal’ so that you no longer have to give an audible signal, whether it’s honking your horn or yelling out the window, whatever it might be,” Wittenberg said. “Again, it’s outdated and I don’t think it’s something we need on the books, and it’s not a law that’s even enforced anyway.”

The law came to the attention of Wittenberg after a constituent reached out to him about adding to it to say “on audible or visible signal,” meaning flashing of lights. Wittenberg said the Michigan State Police was against this, advocating that the section be taken out entirely instead.

“The state police said, ‘Yeah, that’s something we’d love to see off the books,’ because no one does this, and if they did, this would be really bad if people were just honking every time they’re just trying to pass someone,” he said. 

“I thought this is something that has long passed its usefulness on the books here, and I thought, ‘I don’t honk my horn or yell out the window, telling someone I’m about to pass them,’ and I know no one else does as well. And so this is something that I think is an easy cleanup and something that we need to just take off the books,” Wittenberg continued.

Sgt. Matthew Williams, of the Michigan State Police, said the state police is always trying to keep the Michigan Vehicle Code and Penal Code updated and appropriate.

“A lot of times, there’ll be a law on the books and it’s been on the books for a long time. … It hasn’t been enforced at all, either because of societal changes, policy changes, or it’s just impractical,” he said. 

Matthews said that in looking at the current 1949 law, he guessed the requirement for the audible signal when passing was probably before mirrors became standard on vehicles. Therefore, people would audibly signal so a driver knew there was a car coming up behind them and was going to pass.

“Obviously, that’s completely unnecessary today, and if anything, it’s just going to tick people off or be a distraction if you’re honking your horn every time you’re passing a car,” he said.

Wittenberg said the bill was referred to the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, where he’s waiting on a hearing for the bill.