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Seven surprising facts about driving in Canada

Bilingual signs, driving habits, inconsistent laws and road etiquette – if you are a newcomer driving on Canada’s roads and highways, you’ll notice some unique and surprising quirks.

Driving in Canada for the first time can be demanding. Traffic laws are peculiar, specific guidelines govern courtesy and respect, and many of the road signs are just plain bizarre.

In a Roadside stories video project conducted by Belair Direct, people that learned to drive in other countries, and adapted to Canadian driving shared their experiences about driving in Canada. 

Unusual road signs. Even for veteran drivers, the collection of 2,000 individual road and highway signs are impossible to memorize. From pictograms alerting you to caribou crossings or upcoming national parks, from loose rocks warnings to agri-tourism signs, the variety can be bewildering.

Of course, the Canadian government does its best to ensure the information is clear, but even the most seasoned road warrior can be left scratching their heads at a few of these signs.

A shovel and sunglasses. Newcomers to Canada may find that a pair of sunglasses and a shovel are funny accessories to keep in their car. But leaving home without these two essentials means running the risk of being blinded by the sun, which is particularly bad when it glints off ice and snow, or getting stuck in a shopping centre parking lot after a few hours of shopping. A snowstorm can bury a car faster than you might think. Canada’s weather can be extreme and unpredictable. Picture yourself digging a car out of a snowbank with just a pair of ungloved hands. At the sign of the season’s first few flakes, you’ll want to pop a pair of sunglasses in your glove compartment and a shovel in your trunk.

Yet another reason Montreal is unique. Turning right on a red light throughout Canada is a privilege most drivers enjoy – everywhere but on the Island of Montreal. The French-speaking metropolis is the only place in the country that prohibits turning right on red. Like New York City, Montreal belongs to a select group of cities that enforces this exception to the law. Of course, if you’re coming from Europe, this won’t pose much of a problem, as right turns on red lights over there are also outlawed. Quick courtesy tip: as the variations in the law show, turning right on red is a privilege, not a universal obligation, so it’s better not to get upset if you find yourself behind a driver who is unaware they can turn right on red.

Honking: In case of emergency only. Honking is part and parcel of driving in many areas of the world, as its purpose is to alert others to a driver’s presence. In India, for example, a horn is as important as a turn signal or rear-view mirror. It’s said that an Indian driver will honk as many times in one day as a German will in an entire year. With Canadians’ well-known reputation for unfailing politeness, it should be no surprise the same goes here.

If the driver ahead of you isn’t moving as quickly as you’d like, please abstain from showing your impatience with a long, loud honk of your horn. You may not just be considered rude – you could receive a fine of over $200 for honking without just cause!

De-icing with beet juice. No, that wasn’t an auto-correct mistake. Beet juice has the perfect properties to de-ice roads, most importantly, by reducing the need for salt by 50 per cent. So this is a no-brainer, as beet juice is completely biodegradable, has a minimal impact on the environment and is economical. Plus, it’s a lot less aggressive than salt – using beet juice on roads means they stay in better shape for longer. This innovative use for the juice was discovered in Ontario, a sure source of pride!

Highways: Not for horses. As funny as it may seem, the warning is clearly written in black-on-white: horses (or any other animal) are prohibited from galloping on the highway, which begs the question: is it legal to trot an animal without incurring yourself a fine?

Know that if you wish to ride your horse on the highway, you’ll have to hang at least two bells from its saddle (or cart!) to alert motorists – or other horseback riders – to your presence.

So there you are. Driving in Canada is filled with surprises, especially for those who have learned to drive elsewhere. Be safe, and enjoy the scenic wonder that is Canadian driving!       

– Belair Direct



Apipe cleaner or chenille stem is a type of brush originally intended for removing moisture and residue from smoking pipes.

Besides cleaning pipes, it can be used for any application that calls for cleaning out small bores or tight places.

Special pipe cleaners are manufactured specifically for cleaning out medical apparatus and for engineering applications. They are popular for winding around bottle necks to catch drips, bundling things together, colour-coding, and applying paints, oils, solvents, greases, and similar substances. They can also be used like a twist tie.

I learned all this when I looked up pipe cleaners to figure out just what they were. And what initiated this research? Our son’s craft project at school!

A few years ago, when he was in kindergarten, he came home with a list of supplies he needed to take for making something for Mother’s Day. Beads, lace or ribbons, etc., I understood, but what on earth were pipe cleaners and why did he need one? After I figured out what they were, I also learned that the ones used in craft projects come in many different colours. 

So off we went to an arts and crafts store and picked up some in neon green, his favourite colour then, along with the other items on the list.

A few weeks later, he came home with a gift for me – a bracelet made with the pipe cleaners twisted together to form links and decorated with beads and ribbons. I wore it to the lunch my husband took us out for.

Since that first bracelet, he has brought home increasingly more elaborate creations made from pipe cleaners. Necklaces, wobbly figures attached to popsicle sticks, even felt animals with pipe cleaner whiskers. They are all beautiful, but a certain bright green bracelet remains my favourite.

                                                                                                                         – Ramona Verghese


 What’s your story? Every newcomer, no matter how savvy or where he or she comes from, has a Fresh Off the Plane (FOP) story to share about their early days in Canada. Do you want to share your story? E-mail it to us at canadaboundimmigrant@rogers.com.

Posted: Jun 5, 2019

November 2019

Centennial College

Immigration Peel Canada

© CanadaBound Immigrant 2016