Driving in Canada is generally more relaxed, slower, and less hectic than in Europe. It is also more considerate of pedestrians. The traffic regulations are basically the same as in Europe, and all distances are given in kilometers.
Some provinces (e.g., Ontario) allow drivers to turn right even at red lights as long as the road is clear. This is not mandatory but an option.
In Canada, a valid driver’s license is required for a minimum of 1 year. An International driver’s Licence is recommended for Australian driver’s license holders. If you have a valid license from your home country, you’ll probably be able to use this to drive in Canada for a short time after you arrive (90 days). Check with the government of your province or territory for details.
Car hire – Age restrictions
You must be at least 21 years of age to hire a car in Canada. Furthermore, drivers aged between 21 and 24 years of age will be charged a daily underage fee.
It is illegal to drive without car insurance in Canada. If you own a car, you must get insurance coverage. If you regularly drive a car that belongs to a relative or friend, you should make sure you’re listed on their car insurance plan. Proof of car insurance is required to keep with you when driving in Canada.
What are the general driving rules, laws, and regulations in Canada?
You must follow Canada’s driving laws. Before driving, take time to learn the laws in your province or territory. These are the general rules for Canada:
- Vehicles drive on the right-hand side of the road.
- Pass others on the left-hand side of the road.
- Always give way to pedestrians on pedestrian crossings.
- All occupants in a vehicle must wear a seat belt.
- Mobile Phones are not permitted while driving except for a hands-free system.
- Always use indicator lights when turning.
- Radar detectors are prohibited.
- Be wary at all times of animals on the road.
- Driving a car under the influence of alcohol in Canada is generally illegal.
- Drivers are to carry at all times while driving: a valid driver’s license, registration documents, and insurance documents.
- It is not usual to change lanes frequently, although overtaking on the right is permitted.
- Every lane change must be clearly indicated.
- Overtaking is generally prohibited at unclear points, crossings, level crossings, bends, and hilltops
- In urban areas, there are often extra lanes for buses on the highways. Vehicles with more than one or two people may sometimes use these lanes. Signs will clearly indicate this.
- On the highways, the maximum speed is usually 100 km/h. The claimed toleration of speeds up to 120 km/h should be considered with extreme caution. On country roads, the maximum speed is 80 km/h, and in towns, 50 km/h, and they are often checked. Other regulations are indicated by signs. All speed limits are clearly marked.
- There is an absolute stopping ban in the area of traffic lights, as well as 15 m in front of and behind level crossings and in front of hydrants.
- School buses with red flashing warning lights may not be driven past in any direction.
- On multi-lane motorways, the right-hand lane is often, and sometimes quite abruptly, designated as the right-turning lane.
- On two-lane highways, passing lanes are installed at irregular intervals. Be very alert here: these passing lanes are sometimes marked quite abruptly as left-turn lanes.
- Traffic lights are always placed after the crossing.
- If not otherwise signposted or at junctions with stop signs, at intersections, “first come, first served” applies, in contrast to the well-known European right of way. At stop signs with the addition “4 way,” this also applies – but the vehicle must first be stopped completely.
- On parking lots, one is very considerate towards pedestrians.
Driving in winter
Learn how to drive safely in Canada with these winter driving tips. In Canada, winter driving can be a challenge. Snow and ice can make roads slippery and difficult to navigate. Follow these winter driving tips to help you stay safe on the roadways this season.
- Plan your route and give yourself extra time to reach your destination.
- Keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid running out of fuel if you get stranded.
- Slow down and allow for more space between you and other vehicles.
- Avoid sudden braking or acceleration, and use low gears when climbing hills.
- It’s also a good idea to buy special winter tires for your car (this is mandatory in some provinces).
- Keep a winter survival kit in your car, including items like a shovel, blanket, first-aid kit, and flares.
- Be extra cautious around pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists, as they may be more challenging to see on the roadways.
Must have equipment in the car
Even though there are no laws regarding the equipment you must carry in the vehicle in Canada, it is essential to be prepared for whatever driving conditions you may encounter.
- Child Safety Seats are required for children weighing 9kg or less
- Children weighing 9-18kg must use a forward-facing child seat, and
- Children weighing 18-36kg and heights up to 145cm must use a booster seat.
It’s a severe crime to leave the scene of the accident. This includes accidents with another vehicle or hitting a pedestrian. If you’re in an accident:
- call the emergency number (911) for police and an ambulance (if you need one)
- wait at the scene until the emergency services you called arrive
- exchange information with the other driver (if the accident involves another vehicle), including:
- telephone number
- license plate
- driver’s license numbers
- insurance company name
- insurance plan number
Automobile associations in Canada
For members of European automobile clubs, the CAA (Canada Automobile Association) provides information and map material free of charge. Offices of the CAA can be found in all major cities.