Traffic Safety and Road Conditions
Driving in Canada is similar to driving in the U.S. – with a few differences:
- Distances and speeds are posted in metric units. 100 kilometers equals 62 miles.
- Fuel for vehicles is sold in litres, not gallons. 1 U.S. gallon = 3.78541 Litres.
- The maximum speed limit in Canada is 50km/hr (or 31.07 Miles per hour) in cities, 80km/hr (or 49.71 Miles per hour) ) on highways, and 100 km/hr (or 62.12 Miles per hour) on rural highways.
- Some signs, particularly in Québec, may be in French.
- U.S. driver’s licenses are valid in Canada.
- Proof of auto insurance is required. U.S. auto insurance is accepted as long as an individual is a tourist in Canada.
- Seat belt use is mandatory for all passengers.
- Child car seats must be used for children under 40 pounds.
- Some provinces require drivers to keep their headlights on during the day.
- Motorcycles cannot share a lane, and safety helmets for drivers and passengers are mandatory.
- On the Island of Montréal, it is illegal to turn right on a red light. The rest of Québec had similar restrictions, but these were rescinded in 2003.
- At intersections, directional signs will indicate only which turn is allowed; any other turn is prohibited.
- Many highways do not have merge lanes for entering traffic.
- Rapid lane-changes without signaling, and tailgating are common.
- Emergency vehicles frequently enter the oncoming traffic lane to avoid congestion.
- As in the United States, all emergency assistance in Canada can be reached by dialing 911.
Travelers should be cautious of deer, elk and moose while driving at night in rural areas. In Newfoundland & Labrador, there are 600-800 moose collisions each year, often resulting in injury and death to drivers and passengers.
Travel along Highway 401 between London and Windsor, Ontario has been the scene of several traffic accidents due to the road condition, sudden and unpredictable fog, and heavy truck traffic. This was the site of a 70-car collision in 1999 that claimed the lives of three American citizens.
Winter travel can be dangerous due to heavy snowfalls and ice that make road conditions hazardous. Some roads and bridges are subject to periodic closings during winter. The Canadian Automobile Association has tips for winter driving in Canada.
What some motorists would call speeding, depending on the speed, it could be considered “stunt driving” or racing. In Ontario, travelling 50 km/h (or 31.07 Miles per hour) or more, in excess of the posted speed limit will cost you. Ontario Regulation 455/07 defines actions subject to on-the-spot licence and vehicle seizure for one week under S. 172 Highway Traffic Act. Upon conviction, drivers face a fine of anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000, up to six months imprisonment and licence suspension of up to two years (on subsequent conviction, up to 10 years).
Driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) is a serious offense. Penalties are heavy, and any prior conviction (no matter how long ago or how minor the infraction) is cause for exclusion from Canada. A waiver of exclusion may be issued by a Canadian consulate in the United States, but several weeks are required. There is a processing fee for the waiver.
Automobile Radar Detectors
Radar detection devices are illegal in Canada. In some provinces, including Ontario, Québec and Manitoba, simple possession of this device is prohibited even if it is not in use. Fines may run as high as CA$1000 and the device will be confiscated.
Most Canadian Provinces have strict laws against drivers using their phones or electronic devices while driving. This includes talking on the cellphone, texting on the cellphone. See distracted driving laws in Canada.
Many Canadian Provinces have agreements with many U.S. States. If you receive a ticket in one of these provinces, this may result in a conviction and points on your driver’s licence in your State.
Visitors to large cities should be aware that parked cars are regularly targeted for opportunistic smash-and-grab thefts, and they are cautioned to avoid leaving any possessions unattended in a vehicle, even in the trunk. Due to the high incidence of such crimes, motorists in Montréal and some other jurisdictions can be fined for leaving their car doors unlocked or for leaving valuables in view. Auto theft in Montréal, including theft of motor homes and recreational vehicles, may occur in patrolled and overtly secure parking lots and decks.