Driving in Canada

Driving in Canada is a fairly straightforward task though there are a few things that should be noted.

Rules of the Road: The Basics

All cars drive on the right side of the road with drivers sitting on the left side. Speed limits are all posted on white signs with black lettering and are in Kilometers per Hour (KPH; KM/H). Highways will most likely have a speed limit of any where from 90 to 110 KM/H. In the cities, the limit is 50 KM/H on most streets.

A right turn may be made at an intersection when the light it is red assuming that you have stopped behind the line indicated and it is safe to proceed. NOTE: Some intersections may prohibit such manouvers and will be indicated “No Right Turn on Red” (confusingly these intersections might also have a light that indicates a right turn while a red light is displayed).

Pedestrians have right of way at any intersection. Stay alert! Light- controlled intersection will most time have pedestrian signals also which will allow pedestrians to cross when the traffic signal is green (ie, they will be proceeding across the intersection when you are proceeding the same direction).

Lights at an intersection follow the following pattern:

  • Red - Stop behind the line indicated.
  • Green - Proceed when it is safe to do so.
  • Yellow - Stop behind the line indicated.
  • Red …

Note: Some lights may have green arrows to indicate that traffic may proceed in the direction indicated. Some lights may have both a green arrow along with a red signal meaning that traffic can proceed in the direction of the green arrow.

Canadian (American) Cars

Most cars on the road have a automatic transmission not many people drive standard/manual transmission cars. Petrol is purchased in litres and is relatively inexpensive (around about 70 cents a litre).

Most cars will be fitted with all-season tires though winter tires are available they are not widely used. Chains and studs are NOT legal.

Canadian Drivers

Canadian Drivers are maniacs and tend to drive much faster than any posted speed limits. For the most part drivers tend to follow the rules of the road though many will “roll through” stop signs instead of coming to a complete stop. NOTE: There are intersections that are “four way yield” meaning that all traffic must yield to traffic approaching from the left (I have yet to tell what would happen if four cars arrived at the same time…).

Winter Driving

In places like Southern Ontario where drivers are not used to winter driving, any amount of snowfall tends to cause chaos and accidents aplenty. The rule is SLOW DOWN, the road may be MUCH more slippery than it appears.

In more severe winter climates such as those on the prairies and the north special care is required for winter driving. Block heaters are fitted to many vehicles that heat the oil pan in the bottom of the engine allowing the engine to start easily no matter how cold it may be. Older cars also tend to have plastic frost shields on their windows to prevent windows from icing (on the inside and outside).

Special -35 Celcius anti-freeze (blue in colour) is also used and care should be taken to use this if the weather is to be cold (I have seen even this freeze in more extreme weather). There is other more moderate anti- freeze good until perhaps -10 Celcius (red/pink in colour).

Many cars in the colder climates also tend to have auto-start mechanisms so that the car can be started remotely (ie, from inside) and warm up before you enter.

If you are to be driving a fair amount in colder weather it is advisable to join the Canadian Automobile Association (the ONLY automobile association in Canada with provincial affiliates such as OML in Ontario and MML in Manitoba) since they will come and start your car if it will not start or pull it out of the snow. The other advantage is that joining CAA also gives you access to the American equivalent AAA and access to all the services provided in the US.

In major snowfalls roads are cleared as quickly as possible but do not count on this. Essential roads will be cleared first (like highways and bus routes). In moderate climates salt will be used on roads to provide traction (and also a MAJOR contributor to rust) however in colder climates salt does not work so grit (gravel) will be used (which leaves quite a mess in the spring time).

It is not uncommon to experience “white-outs” in even the smallest of snowfalls on exposed roadways. Be also aware of ice hidden beneath freshly fallen snow. The best advise is to drive slowly and carefully making no sudden movements of the steering wheel.

Driver's License

To drive in the Canada you need a current driver's license (licenses for most countries are allowed for use in periods up to a year in Canada). An International Driving Permit is NOT required.

Further information about driving in Canada can be received from your local (Canadian) branch of the Driver and Vehicle Licensing (DVL) department of the provincial government.

Further Information

For further information, please see: