I’ll be driving in Quebec in a few weeks as part of a family road trip across Canada. I already know that you can’t turn red on a red light. What rules are different there than in other provinces? — Murray, Victoria, BC
Unless you want a ticket as a souvenir, there are a few uniquely Quebec rules you’ll need to remember.
But, no turning right on a red isn’t one of them — unless you’re on the Island of Montreal.
Quebec dropped that law in 2003, but Montreal kept it alive, making it the province’s only no red righting hood. It’s a fine and three (3) demerit points, say Montreal police.
The Société de l’assurance automobile du Quebec (SAAQ), a crown corporation responsible for licensing drivers and vehicles, gave us a list of rules it believes don’t exist anywhere else in Canada.
This doesn’t include local bylaws. There may still be other rules that differ from one or more of the other provinces and territories — but these are the rules the SAAQ says you’ll find only in Quebec:
You can’t drive on private property to avoid a red light: Section 312 says “no person may drive on private property to avoid compliance with a traffic sign or signal.” If you get caught cutting through that Couche-Tard, or anywhere else, it’s a $100 fine plus fees.
The left lane is for passing only: Yes, other provinces have road signs that say to keep right except to pass, but police say most laws don’t have teeth when it comes to convicting left-lane drivers going the speed limit or faster. Usually the laws say slower traffic must keep right — but they also say that it’s illegal to go above the speed limit.
B.C.’s tougher rules went into effect. There are now $167 fines for left-lane drivers who don’t get out of the way for faster drivers behind them. You can be fined even if you’re driving at or above the speed limit. The law doesn’t require drivers you to get out of the left-most lane if there’s nobody behind you.
But in Quebec, the left-most lane on highways with a speed limit 80 km/h or higher is a true passing lane. Section 321 of the Highway Safety Code says you can’t drive in the left lane unless you are passing or turning left.
You can’t drive in the left lane even if you’re the only car on the highway. If you do, it’s a minimum $60 fine, including plus fees.
And, you can’t pass on the right on highways in Quebec either.
If you can’t drive the speed limit, you must turn on your four-way flashers: Section 331 says “no person may drive a road vehicle at a low speed that may impede or obstruct normal traffic, except where necessary. In case of necessity, the driver must use the flashing emergency lights of his vehicle.”
The minimum fine is $100, plus fees.
Kids under 7 can’t be left alone a in car: People have been charged with child abandonment and similar charges in other provinces for leaving kids in cars, but Quebec’s Highway Safety Code is the only provincial law that specifically bans leaving a child under 7 unattended in a vehicle, the SAAQ says. It’s section 380 and the minimum fine is $100 plus fees.
Motorcycles can’t ride side-by-side in a single lane: Section 483 says “drivers of motorcycles or mopeds driving in groups of two or more in one traffic lane must drive in zigzag formation.”
Only 15 cyclists can ride in a row: Section 486 says groups of cyclists must ride in a single file — not side by side — and a group can’t be bigger than 15 people.
“Other Canadian provinces require a group of cyclists to ride in a single file,” the SAAQ writes in an email statement, translated from French. ”But only Quebec restricted this line to a maximum of 15 people.” The minimum fine is $15, plus fees.
None of these rules have demerit points, says SAAQ spokesperson Audrey Chaput. But what happens when out-of-province drivers get tickets that do come with demerit points? Well, it depends on where you’re from, Chaput says.
“If the driver comes from Ontario, Maine or the state of New-York and he commits an infraction that includes demerit points, we would transfer the information to his driver record, but elsewhere, we don’t have reciprocal agreement,” Chaput says in an email. “It’s always a good idea for a traveler to leave a clean slate behind, in case he comes back one day.”