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Driving Tips for International Visitors
How to stay out of trouble driving
In Canada and the U.S

A smiling woman looking out the window of her csr.

The defensive driving skills mentioned in the Driving safely page are vital for everyone.

The following tips will be most helpful to people new to Canada and the United States.

They will help you know the laws that you should take very seriously, in order to avoid expensive traffic fines, revocation of your driver's licence, or even jail.

Driving in both Canada and the States is highly policed. Because the law considers driving a privilege and not a right, courts can and do take away the privilege.

  • Not stopping completely at red traffic lights or stop signs.

    Canadian and U.S. police want to see you do more than merely slow down.

  • Parking too near intersections and fire (water) hydrants. The laws in each province or state vary regarding the permitted distance, but if you block the view, you are too close.

  • Speeding. In North America. Speed is checked by radar and sometimes by airplanes monitoring traffic from the sky.

  • Driving without liability insurance, which provides funds to the other parties if you cause an accident.

    This is in addition to having an international driver's licence or a licence issued by a province or state in Canada or the U.S. and driving a vehicle that has a valid registration plate.

    In some locales, vehicles must pass government approved safety inspections before they can be registered. Know this well before giving someone money for a used car. It you cannot register it, the vehicle becomes worthless.

  • Having open containers of alcohol within the vehicle—even if the driver is not drinking.

  • Being under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs while driving, which can result in incarceration, permanent loss of the vehicle, loss of driver's licence, in addition to a large fine.

    If accused of driving under the influence of alcohol, a blood or breath test is mandatory. Refusal results in immediate loss of driving privileges.

    In addition, many police departments make a video of accused drivers attempting to perform various motor skills, such as touching a finger to the nose or walking one foot in front of the other.

    makes it nearly impossible for an inebriated driver to be found not guilty in court by saying that the police radar was not working or some other excuse.

    Years ago, an inebriated driver was a source of amusement. But, attitudes changed.

    High speed travelling calls for focus and skill. A split second of inattention can lead to tragedy. Therefore, have a designated non-drinking driver to chauffeur a group home from clubs or parties or use taxis or public transportation.

Beware of parking hassles

Beware of parking fines in large cities. Such tickets can cost a fortune.

And, watch for situations where parking violators are frequently towed (Vancouver, British Columbia, Washington, D.C., etc.).

Do not believe that there are not enough tow trucks to possibly service all the violators during rush hour. That wheel lock that the police have placed on your vehicle will hold it until towing is available.

After paying your city parking fine—which seemingly wipes out the entire municipal debt—and after somehow finding out what towing company has your car and where, you must grab a taxi to take you to some out-of-the-way parking lot (often guarded by vicious dogs and barbed wire) located halfway to your home country.

However, wait a moment. The towing company has a few requests prior to releasing your vehicle:

Request number one, your first born child.

Okay, this is an exaggeration. How unlike Dr. Voyageur!

In reality, your vehicle will be returned in exchange for all your remaining wealth—or at least it will seem so.

This will often involve a round-trip taxi ride to a bank or a Western Union office—during its business hours. Nearly never are cheques or credit cards accepted.

Oh, it is Saturday afternoon, and your funds will not be available until Monday?


But, you have to return your rental car now before rushing off on a flight to Europe?


If its fee is not paid, the towing company may legally hold your vehicle—and charge daily storage fees until the vehicle is ransomed.

Avoid this American or Canadian urban disaster.

For more health and safety tips

Go to >> Driving safely in Canada and the U.S.

Go to >> Being safe

Go to >> Staying healthy

Go to >> Staying healthy outdoors

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