Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Taking to Québec's roads

With Québec's recent passage of Canada's first mandatory snow tire law, I suddenly realized that it would be smart for me to direct my attention away from the state where I'm already licensed and registered and to Québec and what they expect on leurs autoroutes.

The Société de l'assurance automobile du Québec, unsurprisingly an agency of the provincial government, handles licensing of drivers and cars in addition to being a public-sector accident insurer and I found it to be THE source of information on this topic.

So I started with the most basic thing I would need to learn from their site: whether I'm allowed to drive ANY vehicle while in Québec.

I estimate that I am like most people when I expect that driving from the U.S. into any Canadian province wouldn't suddenly require me to have any additional paperwork, and that is true. However, it turns out that staying longer than 6 months requires an International Driving Permit. This isn't unique to Québec and was established by a series of international conventions in 1926, 1949 and 1968 (thank you Wikipedia), but what I really needed to find out was that AAA can issue these for U.S. citizens from any office for $15 and two original passport-type photos. Done!

Returning to what got me started, the new law states that all taxis and passenger vehicles registered in Québec must be equipped with winter tires from December 15 to March 15 or else pay a fine from $200 to $300. So the big question for a temporary student/worker in Québec is, do I have to register my car?

Digging through SAAQ's website, they talk as little about who doesn't have to register as possible making it very difficult for me to know what my status will be. I'll keep looking, as it is important to be sure that I'm properly registered (plus Je Me Souviens is the only motto I'd be willing to trade down from Live Free or Die to). However in the end it's simply just a good idea to have snow tires on a car in New England, let alone in the Great White North.

Oh and Granite Staters, one last regulation for you to remember: while wearing a seat belt in New Hampshire is a good idea, in Québec it's the law!

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