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We were recently driving through Quebec and we were stopped by the local authorities. The reason given was that we were driving in the left lane. We had been there because we didn't know the roads and weren't able to understand the signs, which are all in French. There was no paper ticket given to us -- the officer said the ticket will be mailed to our address. He didn't know how much it was or if any points would be deducted. What should we do? – Terry

Quebec's not Ontario. The hot dogs are steamed, the people are better dressed and the left lane on a highway is for passing only.

"Article 324 of the (Highway Safety Act) says, on a road with two lanes or more, you have to be in the right lane except if you're going to pass," says Sgt. Audrey-Anne Bilodeau, Sûreté du Québec spokesperson. "You can't be in the left lane if nobody's in the right lane."

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The fine for driving in the passing lane is $30, Bilodeau says. With extra fees it will come to $52. For this offence, no demerits get added.

Quebec is the only province with this rule. The rest of the provinces are more vague, saying slower traffic should stay to the right. As anyone who's ever been on the 401 will tell you that policy is open to interpretation.

"Here it's always been this way," Bilodeau says. "The left lane is also used for emergency vehicles. If it was full of traffic it would be dangerous."

There's an exception for multilane roads with speed limits under 80 km/h. There, driving in any lane is allowed. Drivers going under the speed limit are supposed to stay in the far right lane, unless they need to turn left at an intersection or at an exit.

So why didn't you get a copy of your ticket on the spot?

"In Quebec, we're not obligated to give the ticket right away, and can send the ticket a few days or a few weeks," Bilodeau says. "There can be a lot of reasons for that -- maybe the officer had an emergency call, or maybe the driver didn't want to wait to be given a ticket."

When the ticket arrives in the mail, you can pay it or contest it, Bilodeau says. Just ignoring it could get pricey.

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If he doesn't do anything, the fine is going to go up," she says. "if the bills get too high, they can put out a warrant."

Ontario has reciprocal agreements with each province and territory (and the states of Michigan and New York) that specify which out-of-province offences affect your Ontario driver's licence, says Ontario Ministry of Transportation spokesman Bob Nichols.

Driving on the left lane isn't listed on the agreement with Quebec, so it won't appear on your Ontario Driver's abstract.

And what if you get a ticket in Ohio, Spain, New Zealand or anywhere else without an agreement with Ontario? Your Ontario driver's record is safe, Nichols says.

Send your automotive maintenance and repair questions to globedrive@globeandmail.com

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