Clearing up laws regarding private plow operators

Published 9:24 am Thursday, January 14, 2016

We hope your year will be safe and crime free.

Since some snow has arrived, our Traffic Services Section (TSS) in Lansing has received numerous calls reference private plows. While private plow operators may be equipped with an amber light pursuant to MCL 257.698(5)(f), there is no legal authority for the private plow operators to use these lights while traveling on the road.

A private plow operator may use a flashing, oscillating, or rotating amber light for safety only while on private property, or when incidentally entering a street during active plowing. It is a violation to use the lights while traveling on the road.

The violation is a 90-day misdemeanor and/or $100 fine. Plow vehicles belonging to the Michigan Department of Transportation, a county road commission, or a municipality are allowed to use their amber lights while on a highway pursuant to MCL 257.698(5)(d)

According to MCL 257.677a(4), it is a 90-day misdemeanor and/or $100 fine to “deposit, or cause to be deposited, snow, ice, or slush on any roadway or highway.” By definition, a highway or street is “the entire width between the boundary lines of every way publicly maintained when any part thereof is open to the use of the public for purposes of vehicular travel” and includes the roadway, shoulder, ditch slopes and sidewalks. As always, common sense and good judgment should be used. Stay safe.

Another issue TSS has dealt with recently is window tint. MCL 257.709(3)(e) provides an exception to the prohibition against tinted windows for “a person who is light sensitive or photosensitive, if the owner or operator of a motor vehicle has in possession a letter signed by a physician or optometrist, indicating that the special window treatment or application is a medical necessity.”

Although there are a few genuine medical conditions, like skin cancer, that could potentially offer a legitimate use the medical necessity exception, in many cases the doctor’s letter is either obtained under false pretense, overstates, a minor eye problem that is better treated with sunglasses, or amounts to a “permission slip” rather than a prescription.

Because tinted windows can be detrimental to traffic safety by reducing a driver’s visibility outward, and to officer safety by reducing visibility inward, reducing the number of vehicles with tinted windows by eliminating marginal or improper doctor’s letters is a legitimate goal.


Rob Herbstreith is a community service trooper with the Michigan State Police Niles post. Email him at or call him (269) 683-4411 with any questions.