Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Canada / US Differences - On The Road

Here’s our second instalment of Canada / US differences, this time focusing on highway travel. During our recent 7,500-kilometre (4,500 mile) trip through the States, we saw some interesting variations between things on the nations’ highways.

The first thing we noticed was speed limits. Virtually all the interstates we traveled on had a speed limit of 70 mph (almost 113 km/h), which is somewhat higher than the 62 mph (100 km/h) speed limit found on most major highways in Canada. And while Canadian police will generally allow you to go an extra 10 km/h (6 mph) over the speed limit without stopping you (at least in Ontario), American state troopers appear to allow at least an additional 10 mph (or 16 km/h). We thought we were already going plenty fast enough at 70 mph, but there were not a few vehicles that had us eating their dust as they flew past.

Interestingly, the speed limit for tractor-trailers and other large vehicles was 10 mph lower than that for cars (it's the same for all vehicles in Canada). The 60 mph limit may be a pain in the butt for the truck drivers in a hurry to reach their destination and deliver their cargo on time, but it sure made for a nicer view in our rear-view mirror! No big machines constantly riding our tail so that all we could see in our rear-view was their front-end grill!

In an effort to encourage you to reduce speed through road construction areas in Canada, signs warn you that fines are doubled for speeding through these areas when workers are present. In the USA, they have an additional incentive: A $7,500 fine plus 15 years in jail for injuring or killing a roadside construction worker! Interestingly, it rarely made anyone slow down! However, we rarely saw construction workers on these sites. Could there be a connection there somewhere...?

Many US states take roadside littering far more seriously than we do in Canada. We saw fines ranging anywhere from $400 to $2,000! Most were significantly higher than anything we’d see in Ontario, at least. However, Canadians appear to take recycling more seriously. We rarely found any place along US highways and at travel centres to deposit recyclable materials like plastic water bottles and Coke cans, and often ended up stockpiling such things in the trunk until we found one. Guess we didn’t realize how effective all that recycling advertising really was on us till now!

Didn’t see any of those Mercedes Smart Cars in the States either. Maybe we just didn't travel in areas that had them.

One final thing that caught our attention was the fact that many states that had seatbelt laws allowed motorcycle riders to drive without helmets. Not sure what the rationale behind that is, but it struck us as somewhat ironic.

Well, guess I’d better go and get some supper. Think I’ll get a good old-fashioned hamburger and fries. With a Diet Coke. Gotta watch my figure!

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