3 Tips for Driving the 400 series highways in Southern Ontario


If you are planning on driving in Southern Ontario, I have three tips for improved driving pleasure.

If you are travelling from almost anywhere else in Canada (except maybe Montreal) the massive series of “400” highways in Southern Ontario, particularly around Toronto, will make you wonder if you should have taken fighter pilot training. Seriously, the way some folks weave through traffic at high speeds without signalling makes me think they are folks who never recovered from watching Top Gun.

So, quick, memorize these. 400, 401, 402, 403, 404, 405, 406, 407, 409, 410, 412, 416, 417, 420, 427. The 401 is the, for lack of a better word, famous one that includes the Trans Canada Highway and cuts through Toronto. Often slowly. Anyone from Vancouver will recognize the problem of tolls. The 407 is a toll road and, like toll bridges in Vancouver’s Lower Mainland, is avoided like the plague.

Driving Tip 1: Don’t take toll roads in a rental car. If you rent a car at the Pearson International Airport and need to drive over the city to Scarborough or other points east, you may be tempted by the 407. The tolls are a pain for you and the rental company; make sure to talk tolls before leaving with the rental.

Tolls keep all kinds of traffic on the 401. So, it’s hairy driving.

Driving Tip 2: Keep right. If you stay in the left lane and don’t go as fast as others want, even if they’re speeding, they will a) become annoyed b) tailgate you c) pass on the right and d) possibly make some sort of demeaning hand gesture.

The good news is that the signage that links all these lovely highways is pretty good. Don’t of course become complacent because if you sail by one of the exits, it’s a bother to get turned around. Normally the next exit gives you access to the reverse route.

Driving Tip 3: Plan the trip to avoid rush hours. When I drive from the airport to the east I always avoid the rush hours 7:30 AM to 9:30 AM and 3:30 PM to 6:30 PM. This is because there’s a lot of sitting around and waiting on the roads at this time and if there’s an accident, it’s just no fun.

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