I went yesterday and surrendered my California drivers license to the province of Ontario. In exchange, they gave me a slip of paper that in 4 to 6 weeks will be replaced by my Ontario drivers license. It was kind of a sad moment for me, because I have had the same California drivers license number for 24 years! (Wait, I can’t be that old. Oh, well, I guess I am.)
Anyway, even though I am now officially an Ontario driver, I still have a Californian’s driving skill and perspective. And, so far, there are 3 main differences I have noticed between driving in So Cal and driving in Toronto.
1. Flashing Green Lights
In Toronto, sometimes when sitting at a stop light, the expectant green light doesn’t just turn green, it flashes. It usually flashes for several seconds and then turns into a more normal solid green light. My husband had asked a Canadian friend of his what it meant, and that person didn’t really know. So, I looked it up on the internet. Turns out that a flashing green light means that all the drivers who see it are allowed to proceed without any fear of anyone else at the intersection getting in their way. Pedestrians aren’t allowed to cross. Opposing traffic – going either straight or turning – is kept stopped behind a red light. If you see a flashing green, you are free to proceed. It’s like getting a big head start!
2. Turning while pedestrians are still in the crosswalk
As a native Californian, this one took me a while not to cringe every time I saw it. In California, pedestrians have the right of way and if you so much as inch your car into their crosswalk while they are anywhere within it, a cop will nail you with an outrageously priced ticket. They can be clear on the other side of the street, but if their feet have not touched the sidewalk, you cannot breech that crosswalk. Not so, here in Toronto. So long as there is a gap between pedestrians wide enough for your car, you can go for it! And everyone does! Because so many people walk here, I think no one would ever be able to make any right or left hand turns without this rule. So, I’ve been training myself to turn when I see the opportunity, but the little So Cal girl in me still freaks out a little bit every time I do.
3. Insane maneuvers by other drivers
As you read this last one, please don’t misinterpret me. In So Cal, we definitely have insane drivers doing insane things. However, because So Cal is all about the car, most of the time, the drivers doing crazy stuff actually are really good drivers doing outrageously reckless stuff. My husband likes to say that every driver in So Cal knows the exact length of their car and will try to take up only that much space when changing lanes, even at 80 miles an hour. And, having driven around So Cal for 24 years, I have seen lots of insanity. But, here in Toronto, we have seen an entirely different kind of bad driving: bone-headed stupidity. I’m not talking about every one, just those few clueless folks whose maneuvers are so nonsensical that they blow our minds. I’ve seen cars drift back and forth between 3 lanes of traffic, because the driver was too busy talking to his passenger to pay attention to the road. I’ve seen a car stopped at a red light in the left hand turn lane, suddenly, without any warning, make a right hand turn across 2 lanes of traffic coming at her from behind. We’ve seen the opposite maneuver, too: someone sitting at a red light with a right turn signal make a left hand turn right in front of several cars. We’re never sure when cars are suddenly going to make some herky-jerky move and scare the bejeezies out of us. Suddenly, the high cost of car insurance makes sense to us. And it’s not even winter yet!!! Lord, have mercy!!