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4 entries from May 2015

Driving Abroad - Driver License Rules for Travelers

Driving in Europe

We were headed to Florida last fall for some fine family fun and when we were booking our car, I had a moment. Wasn't there…some THING? About Canadians? Driving in Florida?

It's true - a couple of years ago, Florida became the only state in the US to require Canadian drivers to have an International Driver's Permit (IDP) as well as their provincial driver's licence.

The law was meant to require foreign drivers whose licences were not in English to carry IDPs but Canadians got caught up in the sweeping law and, as you can imagine, snowbirds were not thrilled.

Fortunately, the law was repealed and now Canadians can drive their pasty selves all over Florida with only their valid provincial driver's licences. Unless your driver's licence is in French. In which case CAA-Québec recommends getting an IDP if you plan to drive in the US.

But what about outside North America? Regardless of the language on your license, if you're planning to drive in any of the 150 countries who signed the 1949 Convention on Road Traffic, you'll need to apply for an IDP before you leave Canada.

What is the IDP, exactly? The IDP acts as a supplement to your existing driver's license when you travel abroad. Basically, it's a translation of your Canadian licence and presents authorities with a description of the vehicles you're licensed to drive in multiple languages. It's not meant to replace your Canadian licence - when asked, you would present both your IDP and your Canadian licence.

The CAA is the only organization in Canada authorized to issue IDPs and it's easy to get one. You just need to be:

  • 18 or older
  • Have a Canadian resident address
  • Have a valid provincial driver's licence

To get an IDP, you can fill out the IDP application online and submit it, along with the required documentation and $25 fee, to your local CAA club. For more about IDPs, check out the CAA's IPD FAQs (pdf).

Be sure and do your research before you travel, as many countries that aren't signatories to the Convention still recognize the IDP. And other countries, Brazil for example, allow you to drive with your Canadian license (and passport) for 180 days before having to apply for a Brazilian licence, although an IDP is still recommended.

Have you had experience driving abroad with an IDP? Share your stories in the comments!

- Rose R.

Nice Weather Means New (Distracted) Teen Drivers: Study Shows Sobering Teen Driving Stats

Distracted Teen Driver

The sun in shining, the school year is winding down and teens all over the country are graduating from Driver's Ed. Their plans? To spend the summer on the road! Texting their friends while sliding into your lane!

That characterization isn't entirely fair - plenty of adults slide into your lane while texting as well. But a recent study conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that the statistics for accidents caused by distracted teen driving were much higher than previously estimated.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the U.S. previously estimated that 14% of teen driver accidents happened to due distractions, whereas the AAA's study found that 58% of crashes involving teen drivers were caused by distracted driving.

According to the study:

The most common forms of distraction leading up to a crash by a teen driver included:

  • Interacting with one or more passengers: 15 percent of crashes
  • Cell phone use: 12 percent of crashes
  • Looking at something in the vehicle: 10 percent of crashes
  • Looking at something outside the vehicle: 9 percent of crashes
  • Singing/moving to music: 8 percent of crashes
  • Grooming: 6 percent of crashes
  • Reaching for an object: 6 percent of crashes

Check out this short video of near misses caused by distracted driving. The camera captures a view of the road and of the driver simultaneously for the eight seconds leading up to an incident and the four seconds afterwards. Pretty sobering stuff.

You can get the full report from AAA here.

With the weather heating up and more young drivers learning the rules of the road, now is a good time to have a chat with the teen drivers in your life about being responsible in the car. If you're looking for inspiration on how to set ground rules for teen drivers, check out the AAA parent-teen driving agreement. Be sure to show them the video above! And be sure to set a good example yourself when you're driving.

Do you have a young driver at home? How do you talk to them about distracted driving? Let us know in the comments!

- Rose R.

Monthly Poll: Do You Avoid Toll Routes?

Toll Route

Last fall, we drove from Miami down to Key West, Florida. When we picked up our rental car and asked for a map to get to Key West, the agent asked us if we wanted one that used toll roads or one that didn't. I asked her if it was a substantial fee. She said that it was under $10 but that some people are adamant that they will NEVER PAY A TOLL.

I'm not particularly bothered by tolls. My experience has generally been that the benefit (shorter route or better road) is worth the cost. Particularly when it is a time-bound toll implemented to pay for something specific.

The Coquihalla Highway between British Columbia and Alberta is a good example. It was a toll road from 1986 until 2008; it cost $848 million to build and the tolls raised $845 million. So after it was paid for, the toll booths were taken down and it became toll-free.

The 407 Highway in Ontario is a different kind of toll road. The 407 is a Public-Private partnership which is built, expanded and maintained by the private sector in order to provide a quasi-public service. It will always be a toll road. This kind of toll road seems to be a little more infuriating to people; is it because we think all our roads should be built and maintained by the public sector?

Regardless of whether they are fixed-term or permanent tolls, people have strong feelings about them. How about you? Weigh in on tolls in our monthly poll!

- Rose R.

Street Parking Rules - A Veritable Potpourri Across Canada

Street parking

Street parking in our neighbourhood in Vancouver is quite tight. We're near a major intersection and Skytrain hub as well as one of the community colleges, so a lot of commuters and students park there. Consequently, we see a lot of creative parking jobs, including pushing the boundaries of what falls within the by-law allowed limits. Though sometimes it isn't always self-evident as to what falls into those boundaries, particularly on streets where there are no parking regulations.

We witnessed a rash of towings in our 'hood last summer and we couldn't understand why. First, it was always on one particular corner in front of one specific low-rise residential building. So it seemed like someone was calling in these "violations". But what WAS the violation?

Well we found out when our friends' car was towed one evening when they were visiting. We drove them down to the tow truck office and saw that they had been given a ticket for a by-law violation of parking less than 6 metres from a sidewalk.

Parking Regulations

As I angrily shook my fist at our fastidious neighbour, I was struck by two other thoughts: first, 6 metres (18+ feet) seems like a LOT - is that much room really necessary? Second, is that the same everywhere? Being a curious person, I looked it up (what would we have done before the internet?!).

Street parking bylaws are regulated by municipalities (in Montreal, they are even more granularly regulated by its different boroughs). There are similarities and differences from city to city in Canada - in terms of the regulation, the penalty and the helpfulness of the website.

Here's a sampling of street parking regulations:

Vancouver - can't be within 6 metres of a sidewalk or 9 meters of a corner. 

Calgary - can't be within 5 metres of a corner, intersection, or marked crosswalk. 

Toronto - can't be within 9 metres of an intersecting highway.  

Moncton - regulates each street individually. For fun reading, check out Schedule R of their 110 page Traffic Bylaw - every street in Moncton is listed. For example: "Price Street: Both sides, commencing at a point 182.88 meters east of Elmwood Drive and extending easterly." 

Charlottetown - can't be within 12 meters of the designated intersection. 

Regina - must be less than 10 meters from an intersection or crosswalk; less than 3 metres from an alley intersection. 

Ottawa - can't be within 9 metres of an intersection

So, quite a variety across the country. If you're traveling via car to a new city or relocating, it is definitely worth the time to look up key bylaws like street parking regulations. Some municipalities can be forgiving towards visitors or new residents. Others, not as much.

Oh, and if you're moving to Charlottetown be aware that in addition to requiring the substantial 12 metre parking buffer, you can also not operate or cause to be operated a sleigh on any street unless a sufficient warning bell is provided (Traffic Bylaw, Part 8, Section 8.2). The more you know.

Are there any other street parking rules or bylaws that have caused you to shake your fist in frustration? Share 'em in the comments! 

- Rose R.