Currently living in a state where they’re finally increasing the highways to 70mph, when I talk about roads like I-94 through downtown or 696, I receive many wide-eyed looks. People can’t believe that, if 94 is 55mph through downtown Detroit, that people still go 70mph and it’s perfectly normal. I’ve explained to friends here that, if you aren’t going 70 through there, you’re probably going to get rear-ended. They just can’t believe it! Whenever we drive home, we can instantly tell when we’re in Michigan by the major shift in driving. Having grown up in the Mitten State my whole life, I never realized it but, yes, us Michiganders have our own way of driving.
First, there’s the Michigan left. Yes, our state has a driving maneuver named after it. Try explaining a Michigan left to someone not from the area. I promise you, they will look at you like you have three heads. “So you pass where you want to go, make a U-turn, and then turn where you originally wanted to go. Why!?” I hear that a lot. The answer? Well, I don’t really know why we do it that way, we just do.
Then there’s the belief that Michiganders are automatically equipped with a lead foot. I never thought much of this until I moved out of Michigan and suddenly found myself on highways barely going the speed limit. It was then that I realized that, okay, maybe us Michiganders like going fast. Hop on I-75 in Ohio and head North. You will find the speed limit is 65mph and, if you’re lucky, you might get to go that fast. If you make it to 70mph, consider yourself lucky. Keep heading North and, eventually, you will hit the Michigan border. The speed limit jumps up to 70mph and, suddenly, cars are speeding past you. That’s right, the lead foot has kicked in. I’m pretty sure 75-80mph is more the norm on highways in Michigan. Of course there are people that are the exception but I see a lot more speeding in Michigan than I have in the other states I’ve driven through (with the exception of Tennessee–those people are fast!).
Lastly, let’s not forget the infamous Michigan motto. There are two seasons in Michigan; winter and construction. I can’t begin to say how much I agree with this. I spent 5 years away at college up in Saginaw. I-675 runs up there and, in the 5 years I lived up there, I never saw it not under construction. In fact, there are semi-permanent signs for the construction. Sure, plenty of other states have construction too, but I think Michigan takes the cake for having what seems like nonstop construction. Perhaps our state flower really is the construction barrel!
So, the next time you’re driving around Michigan, just remember: lead foots are acceptable, the Michigan left never makes sense but just go with it, and watch out for those barrels!
Thanks to Detroit Moxie for the inspiration for this article!
Kati Bethuy, Contributing Writer