Driving in Canada
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Driving in Canada

Weak currency, cooler weather, and ample tourist opportunities make Canada a great place to visit this time of year. With places like Toronto and Thunder Bay within a day’s drive, it makes sense to go by car. What do you need to cross the border? Do you need additional car insurance? Are there differences in driving laws? Here’s what you need to know for your next visit with our neighbors to the north.

Car Insurance

The USA and Canada have reciprocal agreements for car insurance. That means your current car insurance works the same up north as it does here as long as you’re a “tourist.” This applies as long as you stay in the country for 6 months or less.

To prove you have insurance, you will need a Canadian Non-Resident Interprovincial Motor Vehicle Liability Card. This shows that your American policy meets the minimum liability requirements for all Canadian provinces. Your insurance agent should be able to provide you with this card. However, you won’t be asked for this card at the border, and your insurance policy will still work without it.

Crossing the Border

If you have a DUI on record in either the U.S. or Canada, you may not be allowed to enter the country. Each person crossing the border needs either a passport, NEXUS card or Enhanced Driver’s License.

NEXUS Card – This RFID card contains all the information border control needs to verify who you are, letting you use special lanes for a quick crossing. To get a NEXUS card, you need to provide personal information and undergo an interview at a NEXUS pass center. For most travelers, this is only worth the hassle if you frequently cross the border.

Enhanced Driver’s License – An EDL complies with Real ID requirements. Wisconsin issues both compliant and non-compliant licenses. If your license is Real ID compliant, it is labeled “µ,” while non-compliant cards are labeled “NOT FOR FEDERAL PURPOSES.” After October 1st, 2020, all Wisconsin licenses will be Real ID compliant.

To get an EDL when you renew your license, you’ll need to provide documents with proof of the following:

– Name and Date of Birth, plus proof of name change if your name is different from birth
– Legal presence in the U.S.
– Identity
– Social Security Number
– Address

The Wisconsin DOT maintains a list of acceptable documents on their website. You can also get an EDL before your license renewal by paying the license replacement fee.

If you are traveling with children who aren’t yours, such as a school group, each child needs written permission from their parents. If you are traveling as a single parent, you may still need written permission from their other parent. In both cases, the parent’s contact information must be on the permission slip.

Driving Laws

For the most part, Canada follows the same driving laws as the United States. However, there are a few differences you should be aware of.

– Canada uses the metric system with speed limits and road signs marked in kilometers.
– Cell phones can only be used with a hands-free device.
– It is illegal to turn right on a red light in Montreal.
– The 407 ETR, 407 and 412 toll roads in Ontario are completely automated. When you drive on these roads, gantries take a photo of your license when you enter and leave the tollway. The system then sends you a bill for the toll.

Road Signs in Quebec

Quebec uses French for their road signs. While many are still recognizable based on their design, it’s helpful to understand what’s written on them.

Arrête, Halte – Stop
Arrête Interdit – No Stopping
Impasse – Dead End Road
Interdiction de Stationner/Stationner Interdit – No Parking
Interdiction de Doubler – No Passing
Entrée Interdite – Do Not Enter
Sans Interdit – Wrong Way
Zone rouge – Tow Away Zone
Cédez le passage, priorité – Yield
Route Barrée – Road Closed
Itineraire Bis – Alternate Route/Detour
Nord, Sud, Est and Ouest – North, South, East and West
à droite – To the Right
à gauche – To the Left
Sortie – Exit
Frontière – Border
Douane – Customs
Circuit Touristique – Scenic Route
Au pas – Slow
Bifurcation – Junction
Carrefour – Crossroad

Have Collision Damage? Come See Us.

Worried your car won’t be the same after an accident? Want to rest easy knowing it will survive your next road trip? When you need collision repair, go to Merton Auto Body. We’ve been in the auto body business for over 70 years, earning the trust of Lake Country residents through our commitment to quality. We’re the first choice for most insurance carriers because we do the work right and do it quickly. Our shop is between Lisbon and North Lake, just a short drive or tow from Pewaukee, Hartland and the Silver Springs golf course.


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