Driving in Canada

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Driving in Canada might be quite different from driving in the USA. When driving in Canada, remember that you need to drive on the right side of the road, which is something you will need to get adjusted to quickly if you are coming from a country that drives on the left.

Speed Limits in Canada

Speed limits vary depending on where you are driving in Canada. The speed is measured in kilometers per hour (kph), which might be a bit confusing for someone who's not used to the metric system. Speed limits in Canada are:
  • Urban areas: 50 kmph (31 mph)
  • Open roads: 80 kmph (49 mph)
  • Motorways or Expressways: 100 kmph (62 mph)
In general, speed limits in Canada are strongly enforced, and radar traps are frequent, so it is very important to follow the above limits at any time.

The above speed limits are a rough guide. The actual speed limit is based on the Statutory speed limits, which are the default speed limits set by statute in each province or territory. Statutory speed limits apply on roads which do not have posted speed limits. Posted speed limits may differ from the statutory speed limit.


Canadian roads are quite long (Canada is a country that spans six time zones!) and therefore always carry food and water with you while traveling long distances. Accidents due to fatigue and drowsiness are common.

Winter travel can be dangerous due to heavy snowfalls and hazardous icy conditions. Some roads and bridges are subject to periodic winter closures.

Signs and symbols are very similar to those used in most countries around the world, so they display symbols instead of text. In Quebec, most of the signs are in French only, so in certain areas knowledge of French can be important.

Driving age

Drinking and Driving

The amount of legally allowed alcohol in the blood is mg/ml. Driving while impaired is a criminal offense in Canada. Penalties are heavy, and any prior conviction (no matter how old or how minor the infraction) is grounds for exclusion from Canada.

Mobile Phones

Only 'hands free' mobile telephones can be used whilst driving.


Remember to carry important documentation with you at all times. Documents you should have with you:
  • Vehicle Registration
  • Owner's Permission - If the vehicle is not registered in your name, carry a letter from the registered owner giving you permission to drive.
  • Certificate of Motor Insurance
  • Driver's license - The information in your driving licence must be written in a Latin alphapet or accompanied by a translation by a reliable source or an international driving licence. If your license does not incorporate a photograph, ensure you carry your passport to validate the license.
  • Photo ID - a valid form of Photo ID like your passport

Right of way

In Canada, if a school bus stops and flashes red lights, traffic in both directions must comply and stop.

Safety Belts

Canada requires the use of either seatbelts or a safety seat for everyone in the car, both at the front and back.

Driving with Children

The law in Canada requires children car seats for all children under 18 kg (40 ponds). The safety seat should be a rear-facing seat, a forward-facing seat or a booster seat based on the exact age and weight of the child.

The Police

If you are stopped by the police while driving in Canada, stay seated in your car and switch the engine off. Wait for further instructions form the police officer. Do not attempt to do anything yourself. Always be polite and well mannered. Never try to bribe the police officers, or try to pay the fine directly to him. Attempting to bribe a police officer is a very serious crime in Canada.

Additional Required Equipment

All cars in Canada must be equipped with the following equipment:


Additional Issues

Snow tires are required in some Provinces.

It is illegal to take automobile radar detectors into Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, the Yukon or the Northwest Territories, regardless of whether they are used or not. Police there may confiscate radar detectors, operational or not, and impose substantial fines.

U.S. auto insurance is accepted as long as an individual is a tourist in Canada. U.S. insurance firms will issue a Canadian insurance card, which should be obtained and carried prior to driving into Canada.


Depending on which province you are driving in, you will need to switch on your headlights even during the day. Always keep dipped headlights on during low visibility.

Traffic Lights

In Montreal and Quebec City, it is prohibited to turn right on red. At intersections, directional signs will indicate only which turn is allowed; any other turn is prohibited.

Animals Crossing

Signs alerting drivers to beware of certain wildlife that roam nearby may be seen on some roads. It's not just to protect the animals; deer, elk and moose can be a real hazard for cars and their drivers. They often get mesmerised by car lights and stand frozen in the path of your car, or can bolt across the road out of nowhere. If you hit one of these large animals, especially a moose, you can be killed.

With all these rules and regulations in mind, you will definitely have a smooth ride through Canada. Although the rules might be a bit different from the United States, it will not take time to get used to driving in Canada.