Posted by: Rob | June 6, 2008

Driving in Canada

Driving in Canada can be a highly variable experience. My experiences of late have been primarily in Western Canada. Western Canada is wide open, a lot like the American West, except more wide open. In Alberta particularly, you can sometimes travel on the major divided highways and rarely see another vehicle. Congestion is not an issue.

Speed limits (which I consider to be mainly “guidelines”) usually top out at 110 km/h (that’s about 66 mph for those of you south of 49). Now I’ll admit that I tend to slightly “fracture” the limits placed on drivers by the powers that be. As I said, I consider them to be “guidelines”. I’ve seen the statistics too; the ones that say that something like 75% to 95% of drivers consider themselves to be “better than average”. I’ve traveled more than a few miles in my lifetime and I’ve had the opportunity to observe a lot of drivers in their natural habitat. And I believe I can say, without the slightest hint of arrogance or conceit, that I am a better than average driver.

My dad spent a few years in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. During his tenure he was assigned to traffic duty and he has regaled me with tales (some sounded a little tall) from those days on traffic back in the late ’50’s. It likely goes without saying that policemen get special driver training. Dad showed me a few of those moves; they were cute, but most of them are obsolete today. Oddly enough, having had police driver training didn’t help my dad. He was a shitty driver and he got worse and worse as he got older.

I’ve not had any formal driver training, but I do have an affinity for machines. I think that, in many cases, the machine becomes an extension of you as its pilot. I’m a little aggressive too, but in the sense of being opposite to hesitant. My aggressiveness has been tempered and moderated a bit with age. When I was younger, my dad hated riding with me. He figured that I was often too “challenging”. If I rode the centre line a bit, especially in the face of oncoming heavy truck traffic, he would become quite upset. I wasn’t about to change. Eventually he quit riding with me. He also used to tell me that “speeding is a sucker’s game”. He said you don’t get where you’re going any faster and you will be caught and ticketed.

I guess he didn’t figure that I’d be better at math than him. According to my calculations, if you were travelling a distance of 500 kilometres and your speed was the posted 100 km/h you would arrive in about 5 hours. Now, if you exceeded the speed limit and travelled at 110 km/h you would arrive in 4.54 hours; that’s arriving about 30 minutes sooner. If you travelled at the upper bounds of getting ticketed, say 125 km/h, you would arrive in 4 hours – a full hour earlier than if driving the posted limits. The time compression adds up even more over a longer trip. (But, sadly, so does the gas consumption.)

Well, you say, what about the risk of driving faster? Aren’t you more likely to have a wreck? And if you wreck, won’t the severity of the wreck be greater? Maybe so. Hell, nothing is without risk. But that’s where being a better than average driver comes in. Most people probably find driving a long distance physically tiring. I do too. But I also find it to be mentally exhausting. After a day of driving, I’m pretty much wiped out. Why? Maintaining a high level of concentration is exhausting. There is the continual scanning of the road ahead, including both shoulders. Looking for anything on the road or off the road, vehicles entering the roadway, humans, animals, whatever. The other vehicles on the road. Keeping track of where they are, mental computations of what unexpected thing another driver might do or could do.

But the worse thing, though, is running across those drivers who figure it’s their God-given right to “teach you a lesson”. These idiots are a menace on the highways. I’m sure, if you’ve done any cross country driving, that you’ve run across one of these clowns now and then. Usually, they are the ones in the left (fast) lane, travelling just a little bit faster than the posted limit and/or other traffic. And they continue to do so when you come up behind them. Getting out of the way doesn’t seem to be a consideration. And the ones that, once they spy you in their rearview, resort to those short taps on the brakes? I won’t say what I fantasize about doing to them…

Another bugbear of mine is the use of throughways by urban commuters. There is not much more aggravating than coming into an urban environment, especially near rush hour. Maybe you’ve been on the road for hours already. You’re tired. You just want to get home. But first you have to deal with pissant commuters zipping in and out of the lanes, cutting you off and otherwise generally being a nuisance and risking life and limb (and that of those around them). I sometimes wonder if these idiots realize…that the driver of the salt-encrusted vehicle with headlights and driving lights blazing may not be in the mood for commuter fun and games and they should just get the hell out of the way.

I think it should be mandatory for every driver, upon receiving their license, to go over to Germany and put in a month or two driving on the autobahns. They want to see attitude? They need to be dinking along in the left lane at a paltry 225 km/h and suddenly see the grill of a big beemer in their rearview. And the driver of the beemer ain’t dicking around. The message is crystal clear. Get. The. Fuck. Out. Of. My. Way. Once drivers have learned a little humility and perhaps some consideration, only then would their drivers permits be valid back home.

Postscript: I initially drafted this post during the Victoria Day Weekend last month. You can read in detail about similar things we saw out on the road that weekend here.


  1. Hallelujah! Germans know road rules! i also prickle at the left lane cruisers ‘on a mission from god to teach you how to drive’. my jeep has a brush bumper – and i’ve been tempted to use it to clear the lane on more than one occasion!

  2. Yeah–I think I am a better than average driver, too and I don’t worry about me–it’s those less than average drivers who won’t stay home that get my goat. LOL… I enjoyed reading this post—you should look for places to publish it.

  3. @ daisyfae: Wouldn’t it be great if there weren’t pesky liability laws to prevent us from asserting our “rightness” on others? 😎

    @ Marsha: RE: Below average drivers:- There oughta be a law…
    Publish? Yikes! I don’t think so. That’s Annie’s goal, not mine. I just enjoy ranting! 😎

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