Driving Rules & Regulations in Canada

If you’re coming from a small European country like Ireland, you might find the prospect of driving in a nation that spans six time zones quite intimidating, but taking to the road in a hire car in Canada is a breathtaking experience of a lifetime that you should not miss. Read on to discover the most important factors to consider when driving in Canada, and prepare to be awed:

canada1In a Big Country

Given the scale of this country, Canadian roads can extend for many miles between destinations, so you should always bring food and water with you when travelling long distances. Accidents are often caused by fatigue on lengthy journeys, so take frequent breaks.

 The Canadian landscape is spectacular in winter, but heavy snowfalls and  icy conditions can make roads treacherous, with some routes and bridges subject to periodic winter closures. Check whether snow tyres are required in the province you are driving in.

Speed Limits

Speed limits vary depending on where you are driving in Canada. Unlike in the United States, speed is measured in kilometres per hour (kph), which can take some getting used to if you are accustomed to miles. Unless indicated otherwise, the maximum speed limit in Canada is 50kph in cities and 80kph on highways. On rural highways, the posted speed limit may be 100kph. Don’t think you can get away with breaking the speed limits, as you could be caught  caught on speed cameras or radar traps.

Note: Automobile radar detectors are illegal in Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, the Yukon, and the Northwest Territories, irrespective of whether you use them. Police may confiscate devices and impose substantial fines.


Both drivers and passengers must use seatbelts, and child car seats must be used by children under 20 Kg (40 pounds).

School Bus

Traffic in both directions must stop if a school bus stops and flashes red lights.

Road Signs

Road signs and symbols are similar to those used in most countries, using  symbols rather than text. In Quebec, however, most signs are in French only, so if your knowledge of French is not comprehensive, obtain a reliable guide.

Canada3Mobile Phones

It is illegal to talk on a mobile phone or text while driving in Canada.


Always carry your driver’s licence, passport, and vehicle documentation while driving in Canada. Your foreign driver’s licence is valid, so you will not require an International Driving permit.

Drinking and Driving

The legal blood/alcohol limit for anyone driving in Canada is 0.08 mg/l. Driving under the influence of alcohol is a criminal offence in Canada and attracts heavy penalties. Indeed, any prior drink-driving conviction could amount to grounds for exclusion from Canada.

The Police

If you are approached by the police while driving in Canada, remain seated in your car and turn the engine off. Wait for further instructions from the police officer. Be polite and do not attempt to bribe the police officer or pay the fine directly to him.


Some Canadian provinces stipulate that you must keep your headlights switched on even during daylight hours. Always keep dipped headlights on when visibility is poor.

Traffic Lights

You are not allowed to turn right on a red light in either Montreal or Quebec City. Directional signs at intersections will show only which turn is permitted; any other turn is prohibited.

canada4Animals Crossing

In rural areas, you will often encounter signs alerting drivers to the presence of certain wildlife on the roads. These are designed not only for the protection of the animals but for the safety of drivers, as a collision with an elk, deer, or moose could result in serious injury or even death. These animals can be stunned by headlights and remain frozen in the path of your car, or they can dart out on the road without warning.

Now that you are aware of the principal rules and regulations for driving in Canada, you can prepare for the trip of a lifetime. For more detailed regulations, click here.

Book your car hire in Canada with Nova Car Hire for a smoother car rental experience.