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Is it legal in Ontario to drive with a cast on your right leg?

Is it legal to drive with a cast on one's right leg in Ontario? It's not a walking cast, just a simple plaster cast from the knee down. If not, is it legal to drive with your left foot? The car is automatic, and is a passenger SUV. Moreover, if the driver were to be involved in an at-fault collision, could the insurance company deny the claim? – Martha, Mississauga, Ont.

Ontario doesn't specifically ban driving with a cast – but cast aside any ideas that you won't be charged if you drive with one.

"Ontario's Highway Traffic Act (HTA) doesn't specify which foot must be used when operating a motor vehicle, nor the type of footwear to be used," said Bob Nichols, Ministry of Transportation (MTO) spokesman, in an e-mail. "It's the driver's responsibility to ensure that (he) is capable of operating a motor vehicle safely – that includes ensuring that the vehicle's gas and brake pedals can be safely used."

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If police decide that you can't drive safely because of a cast, or because you're using your left foot, you could be charged with careless driving under Ontario's HTA.

Possible penalties include a $400-$2,000 fine, up to six months in jail and a maximum two-year licence suspension.

Even if you're not charged, driving with a cast – or just your left foot – is a bad idea, experts say.

"It is not safe to drive with a cast on one's right foot and it is not safe to drive with the left foot only," said Ian Law, chief instructor with IRL Car Control School in Brampton, Ont. "Driving is all about communicating – if you cannot feel which pedal you are pressing and by how much, you will mis-communicate with the vehicle and greatly increase the chances of a crash."

When you can't feel the pedals, you could easily step on both the accelerator and the brake at the same time, Law said. And with a bulky cast, your foot could get caught.

It happens with winter boots, Law said. People crash vehicles because they're wearing big winter boots and can't feel the pedals.

"They will step on the wrong pedal or both at the same time since they cannot feel the pedals and the boots are wider than shoes," he said. "We recently trained a number of employees from a utility company after one of their staff crashed their pick-up truck into a river because their work boot got caught up in the pedals."

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Marly Zell, a Vancouver driving instructor who teaches how to drive with a standard transmission, said she won't teach students with casts.

"No driving until the cast is off and physiotherapy is completed, as it's just simply unsafe otherwise," said Zell, who owns Shifting Gears Driving School.

A 2009 University of Wisconsin study found that it took participants 25 per cent longer to hit the brake on a driving simulator when wearing a walking cast than with normal shoes.

While subjects did better with their left foot than with the cast, the orthopedic surgeon who ran the study didn't think that meant left-foot driving was safe.

"I tried driving myself to work and back with my left foot and it was really distracting – like trying to drive while talking on a cell phone," said Dr. Kurt Rongstad. "We drive 90 per cent with our brains and 10 per cent with our bodies."

If you do decide to drive with a cast and get into a collision, your insurance should be valid.

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"If a person with a cast on their leg is legally permitted to drive a car in their area, there is no rule or policy condition stating that they cannot drive," said John Bordignon, spokesman for State Farm Canada, in an e-mail. "Therefore, their insurance coverage would remain intact as per the conditions of their policy, regardless of (whether or not) they were deemed responsible for a collision."

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