Can You Tell American Traffic Laws From Canadian Traffic Laws?


By: Ian Fortey

6 Min Quiz

Image: Perry Mastrovito / Urilux / Corbis / E+ / Getty Images

About This Quiz

The history of driving in Canada is nearly identical to that of the US since the border was not nearly as well enforced back in the day as it is today, and free trade and free travel between the two countries was pretty commonplace. Cars in Canada have been around since the 1860s, and when Henry Ford started producing his Model T, it shipped to Canada as readily as it did to all corners of the United States. It's no surprise then that many of the same laws came into play when both countries had to begin establishing rules of the road. 

Just like laws vary from state to state to meet the demands of citizens so too did the laws between the US and Canada change a bit as things evolved. It's worth knowing the difference between laws if you ever want to travel between the two countries, and, let's be honest, it's kind of cool to learn some of the laws that apply even in your own country that you may never have heard of before because they're a little obscure or unusual. If you think you know your traffic laws pretty well, why not show us what you've got in this quiz?

Children under 4'9" tall have to use a booster seat where?

4'9" is the standard cutoff height for a child using a booster seat in a car in both the United States and Canada. The child's weight is also a factor. Once they weigh more than 40 pounds, a seat isn't necessary.


Do Canadian traffic signs have to be written in French?

Canadian traffic signs are written in French in the province of Quebec and in places nearby like Ottawa where they will be bilingual. The shape of a stop sign will still let you know what it means even if you can't recognize the word written on it, but other signs will be trickier.


Which country allows a higher legal speed on most highways?

US speeds are generally higher than those in Canada. Many interstates allow speeds from 70 mph to 80 mph which works out to about 113 kph to 129 kph. Most Canadian highways have a posted speed limit of 100kph or about 62 mph.


Where can you not turn right on a red light?

Making a right turn on a red light is not permitted in New York City or in Montreal though such turns are generally permitted pretty much everywhere else in both the United States and Canada.


Where is it permitted to drive on the left side of the road?

Canadians always drive on the right side of the road just like Americans do. If you want to experience left-side driving, you're going to have to head to someplace like Great Britain or Australia.


Only people under 18 are required to wear a seat belt here. Where is it?

New Hamshire is the only state that doesn't require passengers to wear a seat belt if they're over 18 years of age. Canadian law says that everyone in a vehicle has to wear a seat belt and most states everyone in the front needs to wear one.


Where are you going to get in trouble if you're caught smoking in a car with a minor?

Ontario law prohibits smoking in a car with a minor present. In fact, most Canadian provinces have adopted this law as well, including the Yukon, British Columbia, Manitoba, and Prince Edward Island.


If a police officer sees you driving without a seat belt on, where can they NOT pull you over?

A police officer will not be pulling you over for not having a seat belt on in Arizona. In Arizona, not wearing a seat belt is a secondary offense so you could still be cited for it, but you need to be pulled over for a different reason first.


In which location are you free to drive and text?

Texting while driving has been almost universally banned. It is illegal in all Canadian provinces and nearly every state. That said, Montana has not put any ban on distracted driving in place, and there is no penalty for texting while driving.


If you're found driving while intoxicated, where will you get a $1,000 minimum fine for your first offense?

The minimum fine of $1,000 for a first offense applies across the board in all of Canada. The maximum blood alcohol content you can have is 0.08, which is the same as many states, but the penalties are much stiffer. You'll also lose your license for 1-3 years and can face up to 5 years in jail.


Where are you if there's a flashing green light letting you know to watch for pedestrians?

In British Columbia when a pedestrian pushes the button to cross the street when the light changes, it will flash green instead of being solid green. This lets drivers know it was pedestrian-activated and to keep an eye open.


On average where is gasoline more expensive?

In general, gasoline is going to cost you more in Canada than it is in the United States. This could be for any number of reasons, but the exchange rate between American and Canadian funds is one aspect as is Canada's use of a carbon tax on gasoline. That said, it will still vary greatly from coast to coast.


Which country has the most secondary traffic offenses?

Every traffic offense in Canada is a primary traffic offense. In the US, a secondary offense will not allow you to be pulled over, but there is no such law in Canada so any offense will get you pulled over.


Do you know where it's not legal to coast down a hill in neutral?

British Columbia does not want you coasting while in neutral for whatever reason. Some people do this if they're on a fairly large hill to save a little bit of gas mileage in the mountains. Not in BC, though.


Being courteous on the road is never a bad thing. Where will you get fined for not letting a faster car pass you in the fast lane?

Under British Columbia law, if you're in the left lane and a car is coming up fast behind you, you need to move as soon as it is safe to do so. If you block their progress, you're facing 3 points on your license and a small fine assuming you get caught.


Do you know where it's legal to have a radar detector in your car?

Radar detectors in personal vehicles are legal in almost every state. In Canada, however, they are illegal in most provinces. Only British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan allow drivers to have them. In other provinces they can be confiscated and you can be fined.


What is the maximum legal blood alcohol concentration for a 20-year-old driver in Saskatchewan?

Young drivers in Canada are not allowed to have any alcohol in their system. Under 21 or with less than 5 years driving experience means your BAC must be 0.00% at all times or you can be charged with impaired driving.


Which country has a regional law that requires you to honk before passing another vehicle?

Head to the east coast of Canada and Prince Edward Island and you'll run into this obscure traffic law that requires you to honk before passing a car. It's worth noting that, despite being a law, no one does this and no one gets punished for not doing it.


Can you tell us where it's legal to drive totally barefoot?

If you don't want to wear shoes while you're driving, you'll be happy to know that no one is stopping you, at least not in Canada or the US. No laws exist that will force you to put some shoes on. (But keep your hands on the wheel!)


No one likes to drive in the snow. Where is it required by law that you use snow tires during winter months?

Under Quebec law, your car must be outfitted with winter tires from December 1st to March 15. Other provinces don't have this stipulation but it's worth noting that drivers get a reduction on their insurance for having snow tires on during the winter.


Some people like to turn their car into moving sunglasses. Where is window tint legally prohibited in front side windows?

Most states allow some degree of window tint but New Jersey allows none for driver or passenger side windows. Likewise, Canadian provinces like Alberta and Nova Scotia ban the tinting as a safety precaution.


A helmet must be worn by anyone operating a motorcycle in both the US and Canada. True or false?

Technically this is false because there are a handful of states, like Illinois, that do not require motorcyclists to wear a helmet under the law. Most states do require it, however, and it is the law of the land in Canada as well.


Is it cool to cut through a gas station parking lot if you're approaching a red light and don't want to wait to turn the corner?

Sometimes you want to turn right but there's a car going straight stopped at the light ahead of you. Right next to you is a gas station that you could cut across and to the street you want to drive down, so you go ahead and take the shortcut. This is fine pretty much everywhere except the province of Quebec. It'll get you fined if you're caught.


Let's say you're in the drive-thru of McDonald's waiting for a Big Mac. Can you send a text to someone at home saying you're on your way?

Canada has some strict laws about texting behind the wheel that state you need to be parked before texting. Since sitting in the drive-thru is not the same as being parked, people can and have been ticketed in places like Alberta for this infraction. Ontario and Quebec, however, have different laws.


The left lane is the fast lane for most people. Where is it a passing lane only?

Quebec law recognizes the left-hand lane of a highway as the passing lane. That doesn't mean it's the fast lane; it means you can only use it to pass a slower vehicle, after which you have to move right again.


Where does the law prohibit more passengers than seat belts?

Canadian law says that every person in the car must have a functional seat belt to themselves. If you can fit three people in the back but only have two seat belts, you can only legally have two people in the back. If the person is under 18 and you get caught, the driver gets fined. Over 18, the passenger gets fined.


In which jurisdiction is it not legal to leave a child under 7 alone in the car?

You shouldn't leave a child alone in a car anywhere, and many places in the US and Canada have laws against child abandonment, but Quebec is the only place that opted to put a specific age on it.


Where do you not want to put your hazard lights on while you're still moving?

Hawaii has a law against using your hazard lights if you're still in motion for some reason. If something comes up that requires the use of your hazard lights, you're expected to pull over and come to a complete stop first.


Roadkill is an unfortunate side effect of driving. Do you know where it's prohibited to claim roadkill as your own when you owe back child support?

Why this became a law in Illinois is anyone's guess, but if you owe back child support then the Department of Natural Resources says you're not allowed to claim any roadkill as your own.


Wheel spinning is illegal in Canada, right?

Canada doesn't have laws on wheel spinning or doing burnouts, but there is a law in the state of Kansas that prohibits drivers from excessive wheel spinning and tire squealing, mostly in an effort to curb street racing and associated activities.


Where can you legally ride in the back of a pickup truck?

Around 17 US states don't have any laws at all on the books about passengers in the back of a pickup truck, meaning it's not illegal. In Canada, because every passenger requires a seat belt, it is not legal to ride in the back of a pickup.


Does your car have anything hanging from the rearview mirror? That could get you fined, but where?

Illinois law prohibits anything suspended between the driver and the front windshield, which means anything you might want to hang from the rearview mirror, like some fuzzy dice for instance.


Many people stop to let a funeral procession pass them by. Where can they legally go through red lights?

Though funeral processions are granted a lot of courtesy on the roads in both Canada and the United States, it's only a law in Nevada that the lead car may proceed through red lights after showing proper caution in approaching one.


Where is it illegal to pump your own gas?

There are two states where it's illegal to pump your own gas. Oregon will allow it sometimes but only at standalone stations in small towns. In New Jersey it's fully banned thanks to the Retail Gasoline Dispensing Safety Act of 1949. As a result, a gas station employee has to do it for you. In Canada, you're free to pump all your own gas as well.


Sure, we all want clean roads but where will you get a citation for spitting on one?

Keep your spit in your mouth when you're driving in New Mexico because if you get caught by the police it's a petty misdemeanor. You won't be getting jail time or points on your license, but it might cost you a few bucks.


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