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Driving Regulations in British Columbia

British Columbia has an excellent highway system, with distances and speed limits clearly posted on highway signs using the metric system (kilometres and kms/hour).
Visitors are permitted to drive in British Columbia for up to six months if they hold a valid driver's licence from another province, state or country.
International Driver's licences, US State Drivers' licences, and licences from other countries are all valid in Canada.
U.S motorists should obtain a Canadian Non-resident Inter-provincial Motor Vehicle Liability Card from their insurer before travelling to Canada (See Motor Vehicle Insurance below).
The use of seat belts is mandatory for drivers and passengers in British Columbia. Visitors should note that an infant car seat is required for children weighing up to 9 kg (20 pounds). For residents, an infant or child car seat is required for children weighing up to 18 kg (40 pounds).
Drivers are required to keep their vehicle headlights on whilst driving - day and night.
It is against the law to drive while using a handheld cell phone or other electronic device. Whatís allowed? Hands-free cell phones that are voice activated, or activated by one touch, provided they are securely attached to the vehicle or the driverís body (such as an earpiece).
It is an offence under the Criminal Code of Canada to drive while impaired by alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both. See Impaired Driving below.
Vehicle Accidents: If you are involved in an automobile accident, you should immediately contact the local police or RCMP, then your own insurance company. If the accident involves a BC licensed and registered vehicle, contact the nearest Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) office, listed in the telephone directory, for advice.
Don't forget: When in Canada please drive on the right-hand side of the road!
Motorcycle helmets are mandatory in British Columbia and must be worn by all riders. An exception is granted for people who practice the Sikh religion, who have unshorn hair and habitually wear a turban composed of 5 or more square metres of cloth.

Impaired Driving

British Columbia has the toughest provincial impaired driving legislation in Canada. If you drink and drive you can count on administrative sanctions adding up to between $600 and $4,060, and more time off the road Ė even if it's the first time you are caught.

Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) is a unit measuring the amount of alcohol in the body. Eg., 0.05 BAC = 50 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood. Enforcement in BC starts at 0.05.

Immediate Roadside Prohibitions (IRPs): Administrative sanctions will apply if:
You are caught driving with a blood-alcohol content (BAC) between 0.05 and 0.08, or
Your BAC is above 0.08, or
You refuse to provide a breath sample.

If a police officer suspects you are driving impaired, he or she will ask you to provide a breath sample at the roadside, into a roadside screening device. Depending on the BAC in the sample, the device will either indicate Pass, Warn or Fail.

PASS means your breath sample contains a BAC below 0.05.

WARN means your BAC is between 0.05 and 0.08. If you are caught in this range:

The first time within a five-year period:
You will lose your driverís licence immediately, for three days.
You may also lose your vehicle for three days. If you do, you will pay all related towing and storage fees.
You will pay a $200 monetary penalty and a $250 driver's licence reinstatement fee.

The second time within a five-year period:
You will lose your driverís licence immediately, for seven days.
You may also lose your vehicle for seven days. If you do, you will pay all related towing and storage fees.
You will pay a $300 monetary penalty and a $250 driver's licence reinstatement fee.

The third time within a five-year period:
You will lose your driverís licence and your vehicle immediately, for 30 days.
You will pay all related towing and storage fees.
You will pay a $400 monetary penalty and a $250 driver's licence reinstatement fee.
To regain your driving privileges, you will have to complete the Responsible Drivers Program and have to use an Ignition Interlock Device whenever you drive, for one full year, following your driving suspension.

FAIL means your BAC is above 0.08. If you fail or refuse to provide a breath sample:
You will immediately lose your driverís licence for 90 days and your vehicle for 30 days.
You will pay all related towing and storage fees.
You will pay a $500 monetary penalty and a $250 driver's licence reinstatement fee.
To regain your driving privileges, you will have to complete the Responsible Drivers Program and have to use an Ignition Interlock Device whenever you drive, for one full year, following your driving suspension.
In all, you will face administrative consequences that will cost you about $4,060 before you can legally operate a motor vehicle again in B.C.
You may also face charges under the Criminal Code of Canada.

Distance Calculator

Distance Calculator for mileages between communities in British Columbia.

Fuels

All common fuels, including leaded and unleaded gasoline and diesel, are available at service stations in BC and are sold in litres. Propane is also available at many gas stations throughout British Columbia.

1 Canadian gallon = 4.5 litres
1 US gallon = 3.78 litres

Motor Vehicle Insurance

Ensure that you have proof of insurance while driving in Canada. US motorists should obtain a "Canadian Non-resident Inter-provincial Motor Vehicle Liability Card" (commonly known as a "Yellow Card" or "Canadian ID Card") from their insurer prior to travelling to Canada. This insurance card indicates that you are covered with the minimum legal insurance coverage throughout Canada if you are stopped by law enforcement officials or are involved in an accident in Canada.

If your insurance representative requires further information about this yellow card, they should contact:
 

Canadian Council of Insurance Regulators (CCIR)
5160 Yonge Street, P.O. Box 85
Toronto, Ontario, M2N 6L9, Canada
Tel : (416) 226-7895
Fax : (416) 590-7070
Email : ccir-ccrra@fsco.gov.on.ca
Web: www.ccir-ccrra.org

Other Information: Insurance Corporation of British Columbia

Motor Vehicles & Trailers

Recreational vehicles (RVs) and trailers not exceeding 2.6 metres (8' 6") in width and 12.5 metres (41 ft) in length are permitted entry into Canada, for touring purposes, for periods of up to 12 months. No customs fees are payable.

Motor vehicle registration forms and proof of insurance are required for every vehicle and trailer. If the vehicle is not registered to the driver, documentation authorizing your use of the vehicle or trailer must be provided.

If the vehicle is rented from a company, the motor vehicle registration form and a copy of the rental agreement should be carried. The rental document should bear an endorsement to the effect that the rented vehicle is permitted entry into Canada. Canadian residents may not bring a US rented vehicle into Canada.

Vehicle Towing Regulations: When a vehicle or trailer weighing 1,400 kilograms (3,087 pounds) or more is towed behind a recreational vehicle, the towed vehicle must be outfitted with functional braking and emergency breakaway devices which apply the brakes at the end of the axles. Additionally, one or more safety chains that can hold the weight of the towed vehicle must be attached. A towed recreational vehicle must not exceed 12.5 meters (41 feet) in length. The maximum combined length for a recreational vehicle and trailer is 20 metres (65.6 feet).

More information:
 ICBC Compliance Operations
P. O. BOX 3750
Victoria, BC V8W 3Y5
Tel: (250) 414-7900
Insurance Corporation of British Columbia

Check with Canada Customs if you plan to leave your vehicle in Canada. Canadian residents may not use a US citizen's possessions unless Canadian duties and taxes have been paid. A special permit (E-99) from Canada Customs is available if you plan to leave your recreational vehicle in Canada for a season. The posted permit must be clearly visible from outside the vehicle.

Recreational Vehicle Towing

Brake Requirements
All trailers and towing dollies (car dollies) must have brakes on all wheels when their GVW (trailer/dolly and load) exceeds 1,400 kg (3,086 pounds). Every trailer with brakes must have a breakaway device hooked to the trailer brake system.
 Surge brakes must be used when towing a vehicle that has a gross vehicle weight (GVW) of up to and including 2,800 kg (6,173 pounds).
 From 2,800 kilograms and up the towed vehicle brakes must be able to be applied by the driver of the tow vehicle.
Motorhomes (only) may tow motor vehicles via a tow bar without brakes hooked up on the towed motor vehicle, when the towed motor vehicle's laden weight (weight of towed vehicle and its load) is:
 less than 2,000 kg (4,409 pounds), and
 less than 40% of the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the motorhome towing it.
Motor vehicles with a laden weight of 2,000 kg and over towed by a motorhome must have brakes and breakaway device hooked up.

Preparing to tow
The vehicle on tow must have valid licensing and insurance.
Only one (1) trailer may be towed at a time (a car dolly carrying a car is regarded as one trailer).
All vehicles being towed via a ball hitch must have safety chain(s) or cable(s).
A recreational vehicle towed via a 5th wheel hook-up does not require safety chains or cables
All vehicles being towed must have lights connected to the tow vehicle.

Maximum widths for Recreational Vehicles
Maximum total overall width for recreational vehicles is 2.6 metres (8 feet 6 inches)
Mirrors (only) may exceed the width of the vehicle by 20 cm (8 inches) on each side.

Maximum lengths for Recreational Vehicles
Maximum total length for a motorhome is 14.0 metres (45.93 fee).
Maximum length for a towed recreational vehicle is 12.5 metres (41 feet).
Maximum overall length for a combination is 20.0 metres (65.6 feet)

For more information on the above, and other matters related to recreational vehicles, visit the BC Ministry of Transportation & Infrastructure website (Commercial Vehicle Safety and Enforcement) at www.th.gov.bc.ca/cvse, or contact your nearest weighscale/inspection station, or call ICBC at 1-800-950-1498.

Road Maps

Current road maps of British Columbia are available from Visitor Info Centres throughout the province.

Road Reports

Winter weather conditions can make road trips stressful. Planning your route with up-to-date road information will go a long way toward saving you time, trouble and reducing stress. We're sure you will agree - the best route is a planned route.

For information on road conditions whilst travelling in B.C call the Ministry of Transportation and Highways at 1-900-565-4997. There is a 75 cents per minute charge for these calls. A free, prerecorded telephone information service providing updated critical road information for Vancouver Island is available by dialling 953-9000 in Victoria (enter code 7623).

Snow Avalanche information and Road Reports are also available on the Internet.

Sani-Stations


Looking for a Sani-Station?
Photo: M. Guille

Sani-Stations are found at various locations throughout the province, including many of the Provincial parks, campgrounds, some gas stations and RV facilities.

Visitors are asked to respect the environment by disposing of grey water and sewage in the proper fashion.

Some campground operators may allow non-registered visitors to use their Sani-Station. If permission is granted there may be a fee levied for this service.

Toll Road

The Coquihalla Highway (Highway 5), which runs from Hope through Merritt to Kamloops, was the only toll road in BC prior to being decommissioned in 2008 after recovery of the construction cost of the Hope-to-Merritt section of the highway. The are currently no toll roads in British Columbia, but there is a toll on the new Port Mann bridge in Vancouver that opened in late 2012.

Winter Driving

Winter weather conditions can make road trips stressful, but planning your route with up-to-date road information will go a long way toward saving you time, trouble, and reducing stress. From late October to March, winter driving conditions in all parts of British Columbia can be testing, including wet roads, snow and ice.

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