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Safe Driving

Ottawa’s roadways are among the safest in Canada. Thanks to the combined efforts of all levels of government and many non-governmental agencies, traffic fatalities and serious injuries in Ottawa have been reduced by half over the past 30 years – despite a significant increase in the number of vehicles on the roads.

School zone traffic safety

For parents

Many children are walking and biking to school on our roads. However, younger children often lack the skills to negotiate traffic safely. Always remind your children to:

  • Walk on available sidewalks
  • Always cross at intersections

When crossing intersections without signals or crossing guards, children should:

  • Stop before stepping into road
  • Increase visibility and indicate crossing intention
  • Look in all directions
  • Listen for traffic
  • Cross only when the road is clear
  • Walk directly across road - do not run or cycle
  • Use the buddy system if possible

When crossing intersections with signals, children should:

  • Push button (where one exists)
  • Wait for pedestrian walk signal
  • Increase visibility and indicate crossing intention
  • Look and listen for traffic
  • Walk carefully, watching for turning motorists

When crossing with the assistance of adult crossing guards and student crossing patrols, children should cross under their direction.


Back to school means more children walking and biking on our roads. Because younger children often have limited experience with traffic, and lack the skills to negotiate traffic safely, motorists need to take special care while driving. Help our children get to school safely by following these important safety rules:

  • Reduce speed in schools zones
  • Look for school zone signage
  • Be ready to stop at all times: children do not always notice oncoming traffic
  • Always try to make eye contact with children wanting to cross the road
  • Be patient and wait for children to complete their crossing before proceeding
  • Obey all yield, stop and traffic signal controls. It's the law
  • Stop when a STOP paddle is held up by a crossing guard

School zones and crossings

School Zone

The City will replace existing blue-and-white school zones signage with new, highly visible, reflective yellow school zone signs. This signage serves to remind motorists of the special care they need to take while travelling through a school zone. Many of the traffic control signals in these zones are equipped with pedestrian push buttons. Follow these instructions to ensure a safe crossing:

  • Push the button
  • Wait for white walking pedestrian symbol to appear
  • Start to cross only while white walking pedestrian symbol is displayed
  • Check in all directions for oncoming traffic before stepping off the curb
  • Continue crossing if the orange hand signal begins to flash while walking; there is still enough time for you to complete a crossing to the other side at a normal walking speed
  • Yield the right of way to school children trying to cross at intersections controlled by stop signs
  • Do not creep into any intersection

Remember to never begin crossing on a flashing or solid orange hand; there may not be enough time to cross safely.


Following too close (or tailgating) is the cause of the majority of rear-end collisions – which account for one-third of all the collisions that occur on Ottawa roadways. Between 2005 and 2007, 13,333 rear-end collisions occurred on Ottawa roadways – resulting in 4,237 injuries and 11 deaths.

Two-second rule – a sure sign of whether you’re following too close

The easiest rule or method to assist you in determining if you’re travelling a safe distance behind other vehicles is the two-second rule. It is the same method that is outlined in the Ontario Ministry of Transportation’s Driver’s Handbook. Try this test the next time you’re driving.

  • Find a roadside object – such as a road sign, pole or tree – ahead of you to use as a reference point.
  • Now, wait until the back-end of the vehicle ahead of you passes the reference point.
  • Then count the seconds – using one steamboat, two steamboat – to see how long it takes the front of your vehicle to reach the same reference point.
  • If it takes less than two seconds (or steamboats), you’re travelling too close.

Remember: In wet or slippery conditions, you should allow even more time than two seconds. It’s important to leave a safe amount of distance. Give yourself time to react or stop quickly.

The City of Ottawa’s Integrated Road Safety program has placed signs in various locations in the City of Ottawa – to serve as a permanent reminder of the two-second rule.

Remember: if you find yourself tailgating…back off.

Distractions Impair!

Most people would never drink alcohol while driving, but people often talk on their cell phones, send text messages, eat and drink, groom, tend to a child or pet, or search for songs on their music player while on the road. Looking away from the road for even two seconds doubles a driver’s odds of being involved in a collision. Remember: Distractions impair!

In Ottawa between 2006 and 2008, driver inattention was the reported cause of:

  • 5,490 collisions
  • 1,938 injuries
  • 8 deaths

The estimated cost of these traffic collisions, injuries and fatalities is approximately $300 million.


Police can charge drivers with careless driving if they do not pay full attention to the driving task. If you are convicted of careless driving, you will automatically receive six demerit points, fines up to $1000 and/or a jail term of six months. In some cases, your license may be suspended for up to two years.

Tips for paying attention

Remember to:

  • Put reading material in the trunk.
  • Attend to personal grooming and route planning before leaving.
  • Preset your vehicle’s climate control, radio and music player.
  • Make it a habit to use your cell phone only when parked, to have a passenger take the call, or to let the caller go to voicemail.
  • Not engage in emotional or complex conversation.
  • Take a break from driving if hungry or thirsty. 

Young drivers

Your teen can finally drive. They are thrilled but you feel both anxious and excited. Finally more freedom for you as your young driver can get around without depending on you. However, this increase in responsibility means your teen must now make important decisions regarding their own safety on the road.

Before you hand over the keys there are some things about young drivers that every parent should know.

Let's start with the hard facts 

Young people make up a small percentage of drivers on the road, yet their age group report the most collisions. A variety of issues put young drivers at an increased risk for a collision. Test your knowledge to see if you know what they are:

True or false?

Young male drivers account for the majority of young drivers killed or seriously injured in road crashes.

True: Young male drivers are involved in three quarters of young driver fatalities and two thirds of serious injuries that occur. In Ottawa in 2007, 2,831 young male drivers aged 15 to 24 years old were involved in collisions compared to 1,650 young female drivers of the same age.

True or false?

Young drivers and young passengers are more likely to wear their seatbelts compared to older drivers.

False: Young drivers and their passengers have the lowest rate of seatbelt use. Only 40 percent of fatally injured 16 year olds were belted compared to 60 percent of those over the age of 55.

True or false?

A crash involving a young driver is more likely to occur in the winter.

False: Most crashes involving young drivers take place in the summer (June, July and August), on a weekend at nighttime. Twenty-two percent of fatalities and 19 percent of injuries occur on Saturdays. Almost half of all deaths and two thirds of injuries occur at night even though this is a time when young drivers are driving less.

True or false?

The number of young passengers riding in a car driven by a young driver increases the probability of a crash.

True: As the number of young passengers in the car increases, so does the potential for a crash. Young drivers can easily be distracted by the actions of their young passengers including blaring music, talking and yelling, physical contact, horsing around and throwing things. Currently, the Ontario Government has passed legislation to limit the number of young passengers, aged 19 and under, that can accompany a young driver of the same age group.

True or false?

Young drivers are involved in more motor vehicle crashes ONLY because of their inexperience.

False: Young drivers are involved in collisions because of their inexperience AND because of many others factors, including:

  • Immaturity
  • Psychomotor, perceptual and cognitive skills less developed
  • More likely to take risks
  • Feelings of being invincible
  • Distractions inside and outside of the car

True or false?

Young drivers are more likely to drink and drive.

False: Young drivers are the least likely of any age group to drink and drive or to have blood alcohol levels higher than the legal limit (0.08%).. The young drivers who do choose to drink and drive however, are at a very high crash risk. About 40 percent of young drivers who are killed have been drinking. Young males are more likely than young females to drink and drive. Nineteen year-olds make up the largest proportion of young drinking drivers.

Now for the good news!

You are a major influence on your young driver. There are several ways you can help your teen be a safe, skilled driver and reduce the chances of being involved in a crash.

  • Support your young driver throughout their driver education courses by reinforcing what they have learned and by providing them with extra driving practice time to develop their new skills. Even after receiving their license, young drivers need additional guided practice to continue building their skills. Learning to drive is a gradual process.
  • Be knowledgeable of the Ontario Ministry of Transportation Graduated Licensing Program and review the restrictions with your young driver.
  • Make a personal commitment to teaching your young driver important driving skills and communicate openly with them about their limitations and risks and all the complex skills driving requires..
  • Be a positive role model. Young drivers are influenced by what they see.
  • Set rules for using the family car early on and establish consequences for breaking the rules. Be clear about your expectations and consistent with the consequences. Driving the family vehicle is a privilege that can be withdrawn when necessary.
  • Discuss what problems they encounter when they have the freedom to use the car on their own or with friends.
  • Passengers can get out of hand. Make it easy for your teen driver to let you know if they had any problems with a passenger by asking directly.
  • Make this a teaching moment. Rather than forbid them from driving with a specific person, reflect with them on how to better handle any future situations to ensure that everyone gets home safe.

Consider developing a driving contract

A driving contract is a mutually agreed upon promise by both the parent and teen to ensure all efforts are made to remain collision-free. When developing your driving contract, create it with your teen and have them help develop the rules and consequences. This helps ensure that your young driver understands the agreement, and is aware of the consequences that their choices will result in. Think about the following topics when creating a contract:

  • Number of passengers: start small. Gradually allow your young driver to carry more passengers (and learn the restrictions for passengers of G1/G2 licensed drivers).
  • When, for what and for how long the family vehicle will be used.
  • Speeding/Seatbelt use: if caught speeding or not wearing a seatbelt, decide on an appropriate consequence (for example, your teen will have to be supervised while driving for a period of time).
  • If caught with more serious infractions, withdraw the right to drive the vehicle for a limited period of time. Driving is a privilege, not a right.
  • Impaired driving: Agree to pick up your young driver or young passenger at any time and anywhere if they have been drinking alcohol (or using drugs, such as marijuana) in order to get them home safely. If picking them up is not feasible, agree to ensure that money is left in a designated spot in the house to pay for a cab.

Marijuana – “Why Drive High?” Campaign

Marijuana affects many of the skills required for driving including: Alertness, concentration, co-ordination, reaction time, braking time, perception and the ability to react to sounds and signals. Combining alcohol and marijuana makes your driving impairment even more severe! In 2007, of Ontario student drivers 1 in 6 reported driving within 1 hour after smoking marijuana and 18% reported being a passenger in a vehicle driven by someone who had been using drugs.

Take the time to have a discussion with your young driver about the dangers and the consequences of driving high.

Graduated Licensing Program

The Ontario Ministry of Transportation has made it easier for parents to monitor their young drivers through the implementation of the Graduated Licensing Program. This two-step process allows young drivers to gradually gain driving experience. Over a period of at least 20 months, young drivers can drive with specific restrictions including:


  • Blood Alcohol Concentration must be zero.
  • A licensed driver (G class or higher for at least 4 years) must occupy the front seat and have a blood alcohol concentration less than 0.05. This is the only passenger allowed in the front seat.
  • Number of passengers is limited.
  • Prohibited from driving on any highways with posted speed limits over 80 km/h.
  • Prohibited from driving between midnight and 5 a.m.
  • Must hold a G1 licence for a minimum of 12 months before attempting the G1 road test (can be reduced to eight months if the young driver successfully completes an approved driver education course).


  • Blood Alcohol Concentration must be zero.
  • Must hold a G2 licence for a minimum of 12 months before attempting the G2 road test.
  • Provincial legislation limits the number of passengers in a vehicle driven by a G2 driver, aged 19 and under. The restrictions include:
    • Limiting G2 drivers, in their first six months, to carrying one passenger, aged 19 and under
    • Limiting the number of passengers, 19 and under, for the balance of the G2 licence (or until the driver turns 20 years of age) to three

Please note: These restrictions do not apply if the G2 driver is accompanied by a fully licensed driver with at least four years driving experience, or if the passengers are family members, regardless of age. The passenger restrictions do not apply if the G2 driver is operating a motor vehicle after 5 am and before midnight.

In Ottawa in 2007:

  • The number of licensed young drivers aged 15 to 24 was 83,081
  • Of these15-24 year old drivers, 983 were involved in non-fatal motor vehicle collisions
  • Of the 24 driver fatalities, three were 15 to 24 year olds.
  • Of the 25,526 drivers involved in collisions, individuals between 15 to 24 years of age were involved in 4,481 - 17.6 percent of total collisions.

The Ottawa Police Service Report (in 2003):

  • Approximately 80 percent of the driving infractions committed by young drivers were male.
  • Young drivers received almost one quarter of the total traffic infractions, but account for only 13 percent of licensed drivers in Ottawa.

The Ontario Provincial Police (O.P.P.) Report:

  • Of all 2005 collisions, 9 involved G1 drivers and 207 involved G2 drivers
  • Of all 2006 collisions, 9 involved G1 drivers and 240 involved G2 drivers

Consequences of breaking the law:

If you need more proof to convey to your young driver that driving is serious business, read on. In the graduated licensing phase, new drivers are subject to the same rules of the road as fully licensed drivers. When a driving infraction is committed, young drivers may receive demerit points. The accumulation of demerit points can put their license or driving privileges at risk. As a new driver (G1 and G2):

  • 2 or more demerit points = warning letter
  • 6 points = an interview to discuss their record
  • 9 points = licence suspension for 60 days. (After the suspension the demerit points are reduced to four. Two additional points would again require an interview with the young driver. If nine points are accumulated again, the new driver’s licence may be suspended for six months).

For more information on demerit points or to learn of any new legislation related to driving, check out the Ontario Ministry of Transportation’s website (

The cost of car insurance

Collisions, license suspensions, and demerit points can result in significant increases in insurance costs. Insurance rates can be very expensive for young drivers, costing thousands of dollars. Even a young driver on an insurance plan as a secondary driver can be expensive. If you insure your young driver under your insurance plan (as a secondary driver), it is important to know that infractions committed by your young driver can affect your insurance premiums (and even the insurance company’s willingness to insure you). Insurance companies have refused to provide insurance for the primary driver due to infractions caused by the secondary driver.

How do you choose a driving school for your young driver?

Talk to co-workers and friends to see where their teens went and what experiences they had. Choose a driving school that offers an Ontario Ministry of Transportation approved course. You can check the MTO website for a listing of schools. Young drivers can receive a four-month reduction in the 12-month minimum G-1 licensing period and there may be a potential reduction in insurance premiums by choosing a Ministry approved school. At a minimum, schools must offer 25 hours of in-class instruction and 10 hours of in-car instruction. Make an appointment to meet with instructors at various driving schools. You may want to discuss how often their drivers are recertified and whether or not they are licensed by the City of Ottawa.

Some great resources for parents of young drivers:

To learn more about driver education or to view a driving school checklist for parents, visit TIRF’s new Young and New Driver Resource Centre (

For more information, please call Ottawa Public Health at 580-6744.

Geared to go: Workbook for Teaching New Drivers found on:
Ontario Ministry of Transportation general road safety information at:

Winter driving safety

When driving in the winter, it is a good idea to prepare an emergency car kit and to follow some basic tips.

For additional information about winter driving safety please visit:

Emergency kit

  • Cellphone
  • Phone list of friends, family, doctors, neighbours and towing companies
  • Flashlights and spare batteries
  • Candles and all-weather matches
  • Windshield scraper
  • Blankets, booster cables and road flares
  • Bag of sand
  • Shovel
  • High-energy bars
  • Extra set of boots and socks
  • First aid kit and fire extinguisher
  • Lock de-icer (put one in the car and carry one with you)
  • Neon-coloured towel or sheet that can be used to attract attention
  • Current maps


  • Get weather and road condition reports.
  • Wait for the weather to improve if conditions are expected to be extreme.
  • Keep your vehicle in top mechanical condition.
  • Keep the gas tank filled. This prevents moisture and adds weight to a vehicle, making it more stable in slippery conditions.
  • Keep a bag of sand in the car, which adds weight and can be used for traction if your vehicle gets stuck.
  • When making a long trip, tell someone your itinerary, keep to the planned route, estimate your arrival time and alert a responsible person to get help if you fail to arrive within an hour of this time.
  • In distress, flash your headlights and brake lights.
  • In a snowstorm, drive in a convoy if possible and keep a good distance between vehicles and keep the wheels of your vehicle in the path of the vehicle in front of you.
  • If the car is idling, keep the window open slightly to prevent carbon monoxide build-up.
  • Take a winter/defensive driving course.
  • Take a CPR and first aid course.
  • Know how to change a tire, and check and add oil and other fluids.
  • Inspect tires and windshield wiper blades and have the exhaust system inspected once a year.
  • Look out for deer, snow plows and salt/sand trucks.
  • Clear all windows and exterior mirrors of snow and ice.
  • Idle a vehicle in a garage or near windows and doors, as carbon monoxide can seep into the house.
  • Leave your vehicle if you are in an accident involving power lines. Do alert the local power company immediately.
  • Leave the vehicle running if you smell gas after a collision. Do notify the nearest fire department.
  • Drink and drive

Red-light cameras

Council originally approved a pilot Red-light Camera Program in the City of Ottawa and subsequently approved its continuation and expansion. The program is an initiative to improve intersection safety by decreasing the incidence of red-light running.

Red-light cameras are installed at several locations throughout the city. Intersections are selected based on collision rates.

"Red-light running" refers to driving through an intersection after the light has turned red. It is an aggressive driving behaviour that contributes to Ottawa's collision rate; in 2018, there were 567 reportable angle collisions at signalized intersections in the city.

A driver running a red light can seriously injure or kill others. Collisions resulting from red-light running tend to be more severe than other intersection collisions because they usually involve at least one vehicle travelling very quickly. In the most serious red-light running collisions, the vehicles hit each other at right angles. The resulting side-impact collisions cause severe injuries sometimes leading to death.

How often do drivers run red lights?

Too often! Here are examples of blatant red-light violations at different intersections. The data was recorded during a five-hour period and applies to only one direction:

Intersection Number of violations
Albert Street & Kent Streets (northbound) 37 violations
Carling Avenue & Richmond Road (westbound) 29 violations
Coventry/Ogilvie Road & St. Laurent Boulevard (northbound) 78 violations
Heron Road & Riverside Drive (eastbound) 55 violations

How do red-light cameras increase safety?

Public awareness of red-light cameras improves aggressive driving behaviour. Studies have shown that red-light violation rates can decrease as much as 42 percent within a few months of camera installation. The benefits of improved driving habits even spread into intersections without cameras.

Where are the intersections equipped with red-light cameras in Ottawa? 

The intersections equipped with red-light cameras, in Ottawa, can be found on the interactive traffic map. New red light camera locations are added to the map only once they become fully activated.  As of the end of December 2018, 54 red-light cameras are active in Ottawa. The number of cameras will expand to 74 by the end of 2020.

Are the intersections with red light cameras signed to warn motorists?

Yes, all locations equipped with red light cameras are signed.

How is the red-light violation documented?

The red-light camera takes two photographs. The first photo is taken when a vehicle with a red light is about to enter an intersection. The second photograph shows the offending vehicle in the intersection. Both photos show the rear of the offending vehicle only.

Do the cameras photograph every vehicle passing through an intersection?

No. The cameras photograph only those vehicles entering an intersection after the light has turned red. Motorists who enter during a yellow light and are in the intersection when the light changes will not be photographed.

Can vehicle owners obstruct their license plates?

No. It is against the law to obstruct a vehicle's license plate.

Do the cameras also record violations at night?

Yes. The cameras can record violations in darkness.

What about cyclists who run red lights?

The red-light cameras are not used to detect and photograph cyclists who run a red light. Although cyclists are subject to the same traffic signal regulations as motorists, there is no current registration system that could verify a cyclists' identity in a photograph.

Isn't regular police enforcement enough?

It is difficult for police to enforce red-light running because they must follow offenders through the light in order to catch them. This can endanger other motorists, cyclists and pedestrians as well as the officers.

Communities can't afford to have police patrol intersections as often as necessary to catch red-light runners. The cameras will allow police to focus on other enforcement needs.

Who receives the ticket for running a red light? What is the fine?

No matter who was driving the vehicle at the time of the photograph, the registered owner of the photographed vehicle receives the ticket. The owner's insurance company will not be notified of the violation.

The fine is $260 plus a $5 service fee and $60 victim surcharge. If the fine goes unpaid, the license plate cannot be renewed. The owner's driver license is not suspended for any unpaid fine, and no jail term can be imposed for the offence or for fine default.

Will the registered vehicle owner receive any demerit points?

No, but red-light runners ticketed by police and subsequently convicted will receive three demerit points.

How are violations processed?

All evidence gathered from red-light cameras is processed as follows:

  • Images from red-light cameras are sent to the centralized processing centre (the City of Toronto's Transportation Services)
  • All images are reviewed by a Provincial Offences Officer to verify that an offence has occurred
  • The license plate number is read from the digital image
  • An Offence Notice Form is completed and mailed to the registered owner of the vehicle.

The court system is responsible for trials and appeals

Do red-light cameras violate privacy?

No. By obtaining a license, motorists agree to abide by rules governed by the Highway Traffic Act. Motorists themselves are not to be observed or documented. Red-light cameras photograph a vehicle's rear license plate only-not its driver or occupants. The City consulted the Province's Information and Privacy Commissioner to ensure the cameras do not violate driver privacy.

Who has access to the violation photos?

Photos gathered for evidence are used only to verify that an offence has occurred and to record license-plate numbers. Officials at the Centralized Processing Centre keep the photos. If a defendant requests a trial, the centre must help the Crown Prosecutor by providing the original violation photos and certified plate registration information. These photos, when entered into evidence, become public record.

What is the City's annual budget for the Red-Light Camera Program?

The Red-Light Camera Program has an annual budget of $1.916 million in 2019. The funds are used to cover the following:

  • Start-up costs
  • Engineering
  • Equipment purchase
  • Installation
  • Maintenance
  • Operating costs

What other jurisdictions/countries use red-light cameras?

Red-light cameras have been used throughout North America, Europe and Asia.