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Driving Concerns

Strange Canadian driving laws that surprised us the most in 2015 Add to ...

Nope, it isn’t illegal to drive barefoot anywhere in Canada. And, yes, there really is a law that says you have to honk before passing another car in P.E.I. — but you probably won’t get fined.

Canada has 13 different sets of driving laws. That’s bound to make for some strange and unexpected rules. Here are a few that surprised us in 2015:

Stay within the lines in Ontario, if you feel like it: Ontario’s the only province where it’s not illegal to cross the solid lines on the highway.

“A solid line is a restrictive marking that is meant to signal to the driver that passing is unsafe,” says Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation. “In Ontario, lane markings generally serve an advisory or warning function and by themselves do not possess any legal force.”

Even though crossing the lines isn’t officially a no no, you can still be charged if you pass when it’s not safe.

Flashing your high beams won’t magically make drivers get out of your way, anywhere: There’s no law that says a slower driver has to get out of the way if you’re going faster than they are, whether you’re flashing high beams or not.

And flashing those bright lights is a pretty dim idea, says Young Drivers of Canada’s Angelo DiCicco. “You might be confusing them or you might be pissing them off — all you’re doing is annoying, distracting and putting yourself at higher risk,” DiCicco says. “There might be a reason they’re going slow — maybe they’re driving with a spare, maybe they’re on drugs.”

In B.C. and the Yukon, a flashing green light doesn’t mean you have the right of way to make a left turn: There a flashing green means the light only changes when a pedestrian pushes the button. It’s also a warning that the drivers coming from the cross streets have stop signs. “I understand it means something different in other places,” says Vancouver police Const. Brian Montague. “But here, it’s always been to show it’s a light controlled by pedestrians.”

It’s illegal to pass without honking in Prince Edward Island: In P.E.I., the law says you have to honk before passing, but isn’t usually enforced. “It’s virtually unenforced and the majority of people don’t do it,” says driving instructor Stewart Brookins. “But, it’s basically a good enough idea to make your presence known.”

You shouldn’t “lay on the horn,” but make a single or double tap before you start to pass, Brookins says. A similar law is still on the books in New Brunswick.

It’s not illegal to drive barefoot: “The driving myth we hear the most from people is that it’s illegal to drive in bare feet – but the law doesn’t say that,” says driving instructor Ian Law. “It doesn’t even say in the Highway Traffic Act that you have to wear clothes while driving.”

There are no laws that say what you can – or can’t – wear on your feet while driving a car or motorcycle. So, it’s legal to drive barefoot or wearing sandals, flip-flops or six-inch heels.

But if your footwear, or lack of it, causes you to drive erratically or get in a crash, you could be charged with careless driving.

There’s no tinted love in five provinces: In British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, it's illegal to have any tint at all on driver and passenger side windows.

“The front side windows on a vehicle are designed to shatter into small pieces the size of a fingernail upon impact,” says Alberta Transportation spokesman Bob McManus. “If you apply film over top of that glass it will not shatter correctly and will laminate into large sharp projectiles that can injure someone in the event of a collision.”

When it comes to road rules, Quebec really is a distinct society: In Quebec, you can’t cut through gas stations or parking lots to get around a red light, you can’t drive in the left lane unless you’re passing another car and you can’t leave kids under 7 in the car alone. Eating poutine behind the wheel? Potentially messy, but not illegal — no province bans eating while driving.

Yep, you can get a ticket for texting in a drive-thru in most places: After an Alberta man got into double double trouble for texting in a Tim Hortons drive-thru, we checked the rules to see where else this could, and couldn’t, happen. Every province has a rule that says you can’t text unless you’re parked.

You won’t get a ticket in Ontario and Quebec. In Ontario, the texting rule — and the rest of the Highway Traffic Act — doesn’t apply on private property. In Quebec, some driving laws apply on private property and others, like the distracted driving law, don’t. Everywhere else? You could get a ticket.

Whatever they’re called, you probably shouldn’t be riding them: Hoverboards don’t hover. Also, they catch on fire. And, in Toronto, Vancouver and a growing list of other places, you’re not allowed to ride them on streets or sidewalks.

Have a driving question? Send it to globedrive@globeandmail.com. Canada’s a big place, so please let us know where you are so we can find the answer for your city and province.

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