Speed Limit Signs in Metric

 As Canada uses the metric system, all speed limit signs display the speed limit in km/h (kilometres per hour). The speedometer and other gauges in all vehicles sold in Canada, including rental cars, have metric readouts.

Some approximate conversions for visitors used to miles per hour:

  • 40 km/h = 25 Mph
  • 50 km/h= 30 Mph
  • 60 km/h = 35 Mph
  • 70 km/h = 45 Mph
  • 80 km/h = 50 Mph
  • 90 km/h = 55 Mph
  • 100 km/h = 60 Mph

Winter Driving in Ontario

Please read the TripAdvisor Traveller Article - Canada: Winter Driving .

Seatbelts and Child Restraints

Seatbelt use is mandatory in Ontario .  There must be a seatbelt for each person in the vehicle.  One person, one belt.

Drivers are responsible for ensuring that all passengers under 16 years of age are secured properly. It is mandatory for anyone transporting children to make sure they are properly secured in a child car seat or booster seat. This applies to all caregivers, from babysitters to grandparents, and also applies to children traveling in rental cars. 

Seatbelt non-compliance draws a fine of $235

For more information, visit the Transportation Ontario webpage, Safe & Secure: Choosing the Right Car Seat For Your Child.

Cell Phone or Entertainment Device

Driving while holding or using a hand-held cell phone or an electronic entertainment device is prohibited by law.    There is a exemption for using your cell phone in an emergency to contact 911.  Distracted Driving will cost you $225, plus a victim surcharge and court costs totalling $280 but no demerit points yet.  

Riding in House or Boat Trailers Prohibited

No driver of a motor vehicle to which a house trailer or boat trailer is attached, shall operate the motor vehicle if the trailer is occupied by any person.

Emergency Vehicles and Other Vehicles with Warning Lights

Emergency Vehicles

Emergency Vehicles in the Province of Ontario primarily use RED flashing lights when responding to an emergency.   

Police vehicles use a combination of RED and BLUE flashing lights when responding to an emergency.   

Ambulances and Fire Trucks use a combination of RED and WHITE flashing lights when responding to an emergency.

You are required by law to pull to the right and stop, AND / OR yield the right-of-way when you see the flashing lights or hear the siren of one of these vehicles.

Other Vehicles with Warning Lights

BLUE flashing lights, sometimes in combination with AMBER flashing lights are used by snow ploughs when clearing snow from the roadway, or when spreading salt / sand.     You are required to use CAUTION when around these vehicles, but you are not required to yield the right-of-way as you would an emergency vehicle

GREEN flashing lights are used by volunteer firefighters and medical responders when responding to an emergency.    You are asked as a courtesy to yield the right-of-way to these vehicles.

AMBER flashing lights are used as a general warning to traffic. eg. tow trucks, road repair crews, street sweepers, etc.     Use CAUTION when around these vehicles, as personnel may be on foot near-by. 

Approaching a Stopped Emergency Vehicle

Drivers approaching a stopped emergency vehicle with its emergency lights activated are required to reduce speed, and, when possible to do so safely, move to the next adjacent lane.  Drivers in contravention of this law are subject to a fine of not less than $400 and not more than $2,000.

Passing a Stopped Streetcar

Streetcars are in operation in downtown Toronto. Sometimes they travel on their own right-of-way, which is divided from other traffic by a concrete curb. However, when the streetcar is travelling along the roadway, you must stop at least 2 metres from the rear, when the doors are open. When you approach a slowed or stopped streetcar, look for a RED light by the doorway, which indicates that you must stop, and remain stopped, until the light goes out.  Where there is an island for the purpose of separating the streetcar from other traffic, the above does not apply.

At no time can you overtake a streetcar on the left.

Transit Busses

You are required by law to yield the right-of-way to a bus that is starting from a stopped position, and entering the flow of traffic.

Traffic Lights

Stopping at a Red Traffic Light - European visitors are accustomed to stopping adjacent to the traffic light.  Traffic lights in Canada are mounted on the opposite side of the intersection, so stopping at the traffic light places you in the intersection, blocking cross traffic.  Look for a large white stop line just before the intersection. This is where you are to stop for the traffic light.  If there is no stop line, stop before your wheels cross the pedestrian walkway, or the nearest curb of the cross street, prior to entering the intersection.

Right Turns on Red Lights - Right turns may be made on red lights unless otherwise posted. You must come to a full stop at the red light, and may proceed with caution only when the way is clear.

Advance Green Light - When you face a flashing green light, you may go straight ahead or make a turn from the proper lane. This is called an advanced green light because oncoming traffic still faces a red light.

Green Arrow - When you face a green arrow, you may travel in the direction the arrow is pointing, while oncoming traffic faces a red light.

Pedestrians must not cross on a flashing green light or with a green arrow, unless a pedestrian signal idicates to do so.

Radar Warning Devices (Radar Detectors)

It is illegal to use or transport radar detection devices in Ontario.  A police officer may at any time, without a warrant, stop, enter and search a motor vehicle that he or she has reasonable grounds to believe is equipped with or carries or contains a speed measuring warning device and may seize and take away any speed measuring warning device found in or upon the motor vehicle.

Parking With the Left Wheels to the Curb

In some locales outside of Ontario, people park on either side of the street, regardless of their direction of travel.  In Ontario, it is illegal to park on the left (driver’s) side of a two way street, with the left wheels to the curb.  The reasoning is, to get your vehicle to the opposite side of the street requires the vehicle to be driven on the wrong side of the road.  You may receive a parking ticket or, if caught while attempting to park “left wheels to the curb”, may be charged under the Highway Traffic Act (traffic ticket).

Toll Highway 407 ETR

The 407 Express Toll Route is the only toll highway in Ontario.  Visit the 407 ETR website for detailed information.

The entrances to the 407 ETR are well marked with large blue overhead and / or roadside signs.  Alternatively, you can use highways 401, 403, and the QEW ( Queen Elizabeth Way ) which parallel the 407 ETR route at no charge

There are no toll booths, but overhead cameras are located at all on and off ramps.  The cameras electronically record the vehicle’s license plate.  The toll is then calculated automatically, and a bill is sent to the registered owner of the vehicle.  All Canadian provinces and most American states have reciprocal agreements regarding collection of toll charges.

If you are driving a rental car, the toll bill will be sent to the rental car company (the registered owner).  The rental company will then charge an administration or processing fee, and bill the total amount to your credit card.  Most rental car companies in Southern Ontario have a clause regarding the use of the 407 ETR on the rental agreement.  Ensure that you are familiar with the rental company’s policy regarding use of the 407 ETR.    

Daytime Running Lights

Since 1989, all new cars sold in Canada have been equipped with daytime running lights. This is a feature which automatically turns on the headlights any time the engine is running. The headlights operate at a low power setting (brighter than parking lights, not as bright as full headlights) which is intended to increase vehicle visibility. During Canada's long winter, there are often low light levels during the day, and because of its northerly latitude, the sun takes a long time to rise and set in Canada, leading to a longer period of twilight at dawn and dusk. The use of daytime running lights has significantly reduced collisions.  All rental vehicles are equipped with daytime running lights.

When daytime running lights are on, the taillights are off.  When you are driving in marginal visibility conditions (fog, blowing snow, rain) you must still turn on your headlights, so that your taillights will be lit, and will improve the visibility of your vehicle from the rear.