Canadian Highway Code

Canadian Highway CodeThere are a few differences between the Canadian Highway Code and that in Europe or the USA.

For example, what does a flashing green light mean?

What should you do if you reach a 4-way intersection at the same time as another vehicle?

In general, Canadians are calm, polite drivers and courtesy is the order of the day.

Driving in Canada is easy, but before setting out, it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the Canadian Highway Safety Code.


Safety rules and regulations

Buckle your seatbelt
The use of seat belts is mandatory for all vehicle passengers.

Speed limits
Speed limits vary between 30 km/h and 100 km/h, depending whether you are in town or on the highway. Speed limit signs are posted on all roads indicating the maximum speed permitted.

The minimum speed on the highway is 60 km/h and the maximum is 100 km/h. There is a tacit understanding that speeds up to 120 km/h are tolerated on most Canadian highways.

Turning right on a red light
Canadian highway signsIt is generally permitted to turn right when facing a red light everywhere in Canada, EXCEPT on the Island of Montréal and at intersections where it is expressly prohibited by the sign on the right.

When you want to turn right on a red light, you must proceed with extra caution because you have a responsibility towards pedestrians. Before turning right on a red light, you must bring your vehicle to a complete stop!!! A complete stop is mandatory. Immobilize your vehicle before the stop line or before the pedestrian crossing zone. Pedestrians always have the right-of-way if their pedestrian crossing light allows them to cross. In the absence of a pedestrian crossing light, pedestrians have the right-of-way on a green light.

Turning right on a red light is not an obligation; it is a privilege. If you decide to turn, you must wait until the way is clear. Respect the decision of a driver who does not turn right on a red light; do not honk your horn to make him/her advance. Courtesy towards others on the road is always the order of the day!

Green light vs. flashing green
In Canada, there are 2 types of green light: the green light, and the flashing green. A green light means the same thing as in Europe. But when you are facing a flashing green light, it means that you have the right-of-way to make a left turn.

Required right turn, left turn, straight ahead,...
Right turn sign highway codePay attention to these road signs (right): they are important, especially for city driving. This sign indicates that you must turn right or continue straight ahead. You are not allowed to turn left under any circumstances.

There are signs like this for every situation: left turn or straight ahead, straight ahead through the intersection (i.e. you can neither turn left nor right), etc.

4-way stops
In a 4-way stop situation, the first to stop is the first to go. If two vehicles arrive at the same time, you yield to the vehicle on your right. It is a good idea to make visual contact with the other drivers to indicate your intentions.

Highway exit signs
Highway exit sign in CanadaExit numbers are always indicated in a yellow box on highway exit signs (145 in the image on the right). Note that these numbers correspond to the distance in kilometres along the highway. So for example if your destination is Exit 155, when you reach Exit 145 you know that you have 10 more kilometres to drive before your exit.

Highway markers
In Canada and in the USA, highway markers indicate the highway number (20 East, 15 North,...) rather than the destination (direction Québec, Toronto,...).

Dedicated lanes
Dedicated lanes signIn the city, you must give the right-of-way to city buses that want to merge into moving traffic after leaving a bus stop, when there is a yield sign on the back of the bus.

In addition, some cities use dedicated lanes for public transit (bus and taxi). You must respect this rule, paying particular attention to the hours indicated on the road sign.

Passing a school bus (yellow bus)
Children's safety is the rule, at all times. When a school bus is stopped and its red lights are flashing, you must use caution and bring your vehicle to a complete stop more than 5 metres from the bus. Before resuming your course, make sure that the flashing lights have been turned off and that the bus is advancing.

Mobile phones and smoking while driving
It is now illegal to use a hand-held mobile device at any time while driving. Note that smoking while driving is still permitted, although a bill has been proposed to ban cigarettes at the wheel.