Driving On The Highway

Spring is weird in Canada, especially down here in the GTA. It basically doesn’t exist. I consider spring in the GTA just a very slow transition from winter into summer (How can we have an ice storm one weekend and then have it 15 degrees the next weekend? It makes no sense!).

What I’m trying to get at is that it’s practically summer. I had an exchange with someone on Twitter the other day asking why Canadians go in droves to patios as soon as the thermometers reach double digits. My argument was that since we have to suffer through 8 months of winter, we get into summer mode as soon as possible. Besides, it’s going up to 22 degrees today…I’d say that qualifies as summer.

So now that we’ve established that it’s summer weather let’s talk about driving in the summer. Summer is the perfect season for driving…cottages, camping, water parks…all great places to go to in the summer. However it’s very rare that you will have a cottage or campground around the corner from you, so you will need to drive on something that many people are still afraid of…the highway. But don’t panic! I’m going to give you some tips on how to survive this treacherous obstacle. Read on cottagers!

Go With The Flow

The first thing you will notice about the highway is that it’s fast. A lot faster than any normal sideroad you’d find in your city. Most smaller highways in Ontario have a speed limit of 80km/h while most of the 400-series highways are 100km/h. However, if you’ve ever driven on any of these highways, people don’t drive that slow. I would say the normal speed on a highway such as the 401 is closer to 120-130km/h (When you’re not stuck in traffic).

Many people think that driving slower on a highway is safer. Since they are going so slow, they are less likely to lose control or miss something important. However, this is the opposite of what you should do. If you’re travelling at 80km/h and someone hits you while they are doing 130km/h, they are going to do a lot of damage. People are driving on the highway expecting to go fast, and if you’re in front of them going significantly slower, this is going to cause an issue. They may need to swerve to avoid you or slam on the brakes which could be bad for anyone travelling behind them.

While it might seem scary to go triple-digit speeds, when you’re travelling on a highway it’s very necessary to go the same speed as everyone around you, so you don’t create an obstacle that people need to get around.

Dial Your Senses to 11

This is something you should always be doing while driving anyways, but even more so when you’re on a highway. Since you’re travelling so fast, you’re going to have even less time to react to anything that happens on the road. As I mentioned in my article about sharing the road with cyclists, you should assume that people are driving completely oblivious to the world around them. They might change lanes without looking or even weave through traffic at break-neck speeds. Drive carefully, as you always do, but when you’re on the highway life moves much faster, and mistakes can happen much quicker.

ONroute 66

Southern Ontario takes a long time to drive across. Driving from Tilbury all the way to Bainsville, on the Quebec border, would take over 7 hours non-stop. That’s based on having no traffic through the Toronto area, which if you’ve ever driven here, you know that’s very unlikely. The government realized that driving for this length of time might be dangerous, so they built 23 rest stops that have been branded as ONroutes. There are 19 set up on the 401 between Tilbury and Bainsville going east-west and 4 going north up to Barrie on highway 400.

The idea of these is that driving for extended periods is not a good idea without breaks. All these ONroutes have a gas station, public restrooms and plenty of food/coffee options. If you’re going to be driving for an extended period, make sure you take lots of breaks. Driving while fatigued is almost as dangerous as driving drunk.

Keep Your Distance

As I mentioned above, you want to drive at about the same speed as everyone else on the highway. However, you still need to keep your distance. It’s recommended that you keep 3 seconds of distance between you and the car in front of you. This will give you plenty of time if you need to brake or swerve around someone. Just remember that you travel much faster on the highway, and the distance you’ll need to give 3 seconds of leeway will be much larger than it would be on a city street. This will give you plenty of time, even at highway speeds.

Rush Hour

Jackie Chan can’t help you out of this one. If you’re planning on driving on a highway, you have to prepare for the possibility that you will get stuck in traffic. Whether you’re trying to get Downtown for a Blue Jays game or heading off into cottage country, there could be people going to the same place you are. The best thing to do when you’re confronted with a wall of red brake lights is just to be patient. Weaving in and out of traffic or laying on your horn won’t get you to your destination any faster, so don’t be THAT person.

If you’re planning a trip somewhere, it’s always best to check the traffic conditions on that route and make sure you have plenty of gas in your car. Some of these fancy new GPS units even have alternate routes if you don’t necessarily feel like sitting in the traffic, but understand that if your device is telling you to go on a different route, so is everyone else’s GPS.


Driving on the highway can be scary. You’re going much faster than usual and with even more people around you. The most important thing about driving on the highway is to keep calm. Driving on the highway is almost the same as driving in the city, just faster. You still need to check blind spots and drive safely. Besides, a drive on the highway if it’s a nice day is heavenly. Lower the windows and crank those tunes as you head off to the cottage.