To drive in Alberta as a new resident, you may be required to take a drivers test, depending on where you originate from. Your current driver?s license will be valid for 3 months from your date of arrival. If you hold a valid international driver?s license then you have 12 months or until it expires, which ever comes sooner to obtain your Alberta operators permit.
Licensing is normally carried out at your local registry office and you will need to buy a permit prior to the written and road tests. You will also need to provide two pieces of identification and your immigration status for the licensing process.
There are seven classes of license in Alberta; unless you intend to drive heavy goods or large passenger vehicles then the two to concentrate on are Classes 7 and 5. You can apply for a learners license from age 14 with parental consent.
Class 7 is your learner's license, to obtain this you will need to take and pass a written test and a vision test.
The questions for the written test are taken from the Basic License-Drivers Handbook which is available from the registry office or online. It is important to study this handbook prior to sitting the test as there are different rules of the road in Alberta that you will need to understand.
Once you have passed your class 7 license you are then able to take your road test. You must provide the vehicle for the road test and the examiner will check the vehicle over to ensure that is road worthy.
On passing the road test you will then be given your Class 5 drivers license, which entitles you to drive in Alberta and is renewable every 5 years.
I was really nervous about having to take a drivers test again, but it was easy compared to the road test I had taken 13 years earlier in England. My advice is to study the handbook well, get lots of practice driving with new rules and just go for it as soon as you feel confident. If you fail then you can take it again the next day! You must always carry your valid driver?s license, valid insurance and vehicle registration when driving in Alberta. If you get stopped by the police and cannot produce it there is a hefty fine.
All traffic laws are strictly upheld by the police and they WILL fine you on the spot. For example, Calgary city fines were in excess of 25,000,000 for 2003. So, stop at stop signs and definitely stop and give way to pedestrians who have right of way.
All motor vehicles and trailers in Alberta have to be licensed before they are allowed on the road. This is an annual fee and the renewal date is based on the first letter of your last name, therefore, this will always be the same month every year. A renewal form will be mailed to you and you can renew your registration at any registry office.
In Alberta, the license plates stay with the owner and are not transferable to any other person. If you take your own vehicle to Alberta it must registered within 3 months. If you are a first time vehicle owner in Alberta you will receive new plates upon registering your vehicle.
Another vital service that is available if you are looking to buy a preowned vehicle is to have the vehicle history checked ? more details on this kind of service can be found at our main website linked below. For a small fee they will provide a full report on any previous accidents, odometer level, and the correct owner/registrant and if there are any other claims against the vehicle ownership. No one needs their vehicle to be repossessed because it has finance against it or find out it has been previously written off!
As it is illegal to operate an uninsured vehicle, all motor vehicles in Alberta must have a public liability insurance policy. You will need proof of your insurance when registering your vehicle.
We found auto insurance in Alberta to be quite expensive though the Provincial Government have now implemented Insurance Reforms directed at making premiums cheaper for good drivers. If you do have to make an "at fault" claim or persistently incur traffic violations you will be heavily penalised for future premiums.
Most insurance companies do not take your previous no claims discount and driving experience into consideration. We were also told that once we had our Alberta Driving License then the cost of insurance would go down, so it's advisable to do that as soon as you can.
Make sure you get an up to date no claims certificate from your current insurance company before leaving as it may help.
Though the price of Gas (petrol) in Canada is rising it is still relatively cheap compared to most of the western world. For example the 2006 prices are around C 1.12 per litre for regular (unleaded), about C 1.17 for mid grade and C 1.19 for the premium. Diesel is slowly becoming more popular and is about C 0.90 per litre. The price does fluctuate especially with the surge in world oil prices currently being experienced but at least the price comes down as the Oil price drops.
There is a massive selection of vehicles to choose from - the North American models are being edged out by the more reliable far eastern imports. There is definitely a trade off - cheaper versus reliability and people are starting to move towards the more economical European style cars and away from the big gas guzzlers. Sport Utility Vehicles (SUV) are plentiful though seldom seem to be used off road!
The speed limits are set in Kilometres per hour and are generally quite conservative. In a residential area, close to schools or town centres the limit is 30Kph, elsewhere in the town/city limit its 50Kph. The Highways are 100 - 110 Kph but will be slower near to housing or small villages. Again, these are strictly policed by radar in cars or stationary traps. Basically, by the time you see them you're too late!
Short note about the author
Dave Lympany arrived in canada in 2003 and has developed an excellent free information resource for Canada and canadian Immigration at - http://www.onestopimmigration-canada.com.