Traffic and Road Conditions in Canada

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions

While in Canada, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Canada is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance. As in the United States, all emergency assistance in Canada can be reached by dialing 911.

Transport Canada is the Canadian federal government agency responsible for road safety, although each province or territory has the authority to establish its own traffic and safety laws and issue driving licenses. For detailed information on road conditions throughout Canada, as well as links to provincial government websites, please see the Transport Canada website or the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) website. The CAA honors American Automobile Association membership. Some automobile warranties of vehicles purchased in the United States may be invalid in Canada; please check the warranty of your vehicle.

Driving in Canada is similar to driving in many parts of the United States. Distances and speeds, however, are posted in kilometers per hour and some signs, particularly in Quebec, may only be in French. U.S. driver’s licenses are valid for visitors in Canada. Proof of auto insurance is required. 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. For specific information concerning Canadian driving permits, mandatory insurance and entry regulations, please contact the Canadian National Tourist Organization.

Unless otherwise posted, the maximum speed limit in Canada is 50km/hr (32 miles/hr) in cities and 80km/hr (50 miles/hr) on highways. On rural highways, the posted speed limit may be 100km/hr (approximately 60 miles/hr). Seat belt use is mandatory for all passengers, and child car seats must be used by children under 40 pounds.

Some provinces require drivers to keep their vehicles’ headlights on during the day and some have banned driving while using a hand-held cell phone. Motorcycles cannot share a lane, and safety helmets for motorcycle riders and passengers are mandatory.

Many highways do not have merge lanes for entering traffic. Emergency vehicles frequently enter the oncoming traffic lane to avoid congestion. Drivers should be aware that running a red light is a serious concern throughout Canada and motorists are advised to pause before proceeding when a light turns green. Turning right at a red light is prohibited on the Island of Montreal, and motorists are subject to substantial fines.

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.

Winter travel can be dangerous due to heavy snowfalls and hazardous icy conditions. Some roads and bridges are subject to periodic winter closures. Snow tires are required in some provinces. The CAA has tips for winter driving in Canada. Travelers also should be cautious of deer, elk, and moose while driving at night in rural areas.

Highway 401 from Detroit to Montreal, which is one of the busiest highways in North America, has been the scene of numerous deadly traffic accidents due to sudden, severe, and unpredictable weather changes, high rates of speed, and heavy truck traffic.

There have been numerous incidents on Canada highways involving road racing and dangerous truck driving. Drivers can be aggressive, exceeding speed limits and passing on both sides, and police enforcement is spotty. In addition, approaches to border crossings into the United States may experience unexpected traffic backups. Drivers should be alert, as lane restrictions at border approaches exist for drivers in NEXUS and FAST expedited inspection programs.

Disclaimer

You are responsible for ensuring that you meet and comply with foreign entry requirements, health requirements and that you possess the appropriate travel documents. Information provided is subject to change without notice. One should confirm content prior to traveling from other reliable sources. Information published on this website may contain errors. You travel at your own risk and no warranties or guarantees are provided by us.

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