Guidelines for Indians Driving in Canada

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As international borders are opening up to allow travelers from other countries, many Indians will be keen to migrate or visit Canada. In Canada, owning/hiring your own car/4-wheeler is the most practical & time-efficient way to commute, so before you fly to Canada, here’s what you should keep in mind for driving in Canada as safely as possible.

Right-Hand Side Driving (Steering wheel on the left of the car) – In Canada, like in USA & majority of the countries around the world, the vehicles drive on the right-hand side of the road and the steering wheel & controls lie on the left side of the car which is opposite to how it is India where the vehicles are driven on the left-hand side of the road & the controls of the vehicle are on the right-hand side. It will take some time to get used to driving with the steering wheel on the left & driving on the right side of the road but it is not a tough change, sooner or later one will get accustomed to it and until then we advise you to drive with full concentration & caution.

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3-Levels of Driving License in Canada – In Canada, the driving license classification is split into 3 groups as follows:

  1. G1 – Written exam which tests the applicants’ knowledge of road laws & traffic rules, applicants can learn & practice driving in presence of a valid driving license holding adult once they receive G1 classification.
  2. G2 – When an applicant successfully completes a driving examination in presence of an authorized examiner, they receive the G2 driving license which is valid for 5 years after which it has to be renewed.
  3. G – G level is only for those who have completed G2 driving certification and G driving licenses are valid for a longer period of time. There are waiting periods before an applicant can move to the next level and these are specified by the provincial driving laws.

The levels & classification names might differ from provinces & territories.

Age Bar – In most Canadian provinces/territories, the minimum age of a person must be 16 years to be qualified to apply for a drivers’ license.

International Driving Permit – Foreign nationals can drive in Canada for up to 3 – 6 months (depending on province laws) with a International Driving Permit. The permit has to be issued by the country where the individual has their valid driver’s license issued. The International Driving Permit basically is a translation of the driver’s license into 10 languages and is valid in many countries around the world till one can get a driver’s license in the new country.

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Important Driving Laws in Canada:

  • No Use of Mobiles While Driving – Use of mobile/smartphones or talking on phone while driving is strictly prohibited in Canada and anyone found to be in violation can face severe charges, fines & suspension of driving license.
  • Seat belts – The use of seat-belts is compulsory for all occupants of the vehicle, especially for the driver, the front passenger & any children aged 12 or below. A compliant baby/child seat with ISOFIX is compulsory for kids up to a particular age (differs from province to province). The number of occupants in the vehicle must not exceed the number of working seat-belts.

Bigger families are advised to buy larger cars to seat more people with safety, any vehicle caught with overcrowding of passengers can be seized and the driver fined/prosecuted with implication of heavy fines.

  • Speed Limits – Speed limit signs exist every few meters on the side of the roads in Canada and drivers must adhere to the speed limit mentioned. Canadian Enforcement Forces (Police) keep a vigilant watch on drivers following speed limits and anyone found guilty of overspeeding will be pulled-over and warned/fined for driving faster than the speed limit.
  • Pedestrians – Pedestrians, cyclists have the right of way on the road and motorists must wait at stop signs to allow pedestrians & cyclists to cross the road before proceeding.
  • Driving License Demerit System – Canada has a demerit points system in place to handle traffic/driving violations. Depending on the severity of the rules broken, a certain number of demerit points are added to the person’s driver’s license. A new driver starts with zero demerit points on their license and accumulation of too many demerit points can even cause the person to lose their driving license permit and have their license suspended.

The rules for awarding demerit points differ for full-license holders & new drivers.

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  • Getting Pulled Over by Cops – When police & traffic enforcement stops you, it is best to not panic and slowly pull-over to the side of the road, turn-off the engine & be seated in the car. The police personnel/cop who has stopped the vehicle will approach you and instruct you on what to do next. It is best to be polite & well-mannered while speaking to cops.
  • Snow Conditions – As Canada lies in the upper side of the Northern Hemisphere, it experiences prolonged winter conditions with snow, ice & sleet on the roads. This makes the roads slippery and one must drive with utmost caution in winter, it its advised to have winter tyres fitted to your vehicle to have better vehicle control in adverse conditions.
  • Vehicle Insurance – As is the case in most of the developed countries across the globe, it is illegal to drive a vehicle without a valid vehicle insurance. The insurance premium to be paid on the vehicle can vary depend on the age/experience of the driver, number of people driving the car and the age of the car. Be sure to have the vehicle’s insurance papers with you and in the car at all times.
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