a.  General rules of the road 
b.  Cell phones
c.  Smoking in a vehicle
d.  Accidents
e.  Police
f.   Rotaries 
g.  Seatbelts
h.  Daytime running lights
i.   Roadside license suspensions (drinking & driving)
j.   Bicycles

a) General rules of the road

Drive on the right-hand side of the road.

  • Speed limits are posted on road signs in kilometres per hour (1.6 km = 1 mile).
  • Drivers are expected to drive at a speed suitable to the weather conditions.
  • Speeding fines are double in school and construction zones, and if passing an emergency vehicle stopped on the road or shoulder with its light flashing
  • No vehicle may overtake or pass a school bus on which the lights are flashing red.

Please make allowances for other road users, including pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists, skateboarders, roller skaters and elderly and disabled users of automated wheelchairs.

b) Cell phones

It is against the law to use a hand held cell phone or text message while you are driving. You are still allowed to use a hand held cell phone while driving if it is an immediate emergency or if you are using a hands free device. The fine for a first offence of using a cell phone or text messaging while driving is $233.95, and 4 points are added to your driving record on conviction.  Click here for more about distracted driving.

c) Smoking

It is against the law  to smoke in a vehicle when a minor (anyone under 19) is present, even if a sunroof, window, or a door is open.  Click here for more information about Nova Scotia smoking laws and tobacco.

d) Accidents

If your vehicle is directly or indirectly involved in an accident you must immediately stop at the scene. 

The driver involved in the accident must:

  • give his or her name and address
  • give the name and address of the insurer of the vehicle
  • give the vehicle registration number
  • show his or her driver's license to the people involved in the accident or to witnesses

If there is serious injury or death, you must contact the police as soon as possible. 
If there are minor injuries or property damage of $1000 or more, or if you cause damage to an unattended property, you must contact police within 24 hrs.

e) The Police

Police patrol roads and highways to see that speed restrictions and other laws are obeyed. They also investigate accidents and help drivers who have vehicle problems. Police may stop any driver they believe is breaking the law. 

If police stop your vehicle you must obey. You should stay in your vehicle unless police ask you to step out of the vehicle.  

Be prepared to show:

  • your driver's license
  • the registration papers for that vehicle
  • safety inspection sticker
  • proof of insurance 

There are laws against drinking and driving. If the police have reason to believe that you are driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs, they can arrest you. They can also ask you to take a breathalyser test at the police station. 

If they take you to the police station, they must tell you that you have a right to speak with a lawyer and give you the opportunity to do so. 

Click here for more information about 'you and the police'.

f) Rules for using roundabouts and rotaries

The rules for Nova Scotia roundabouts are much the same as rules for roundabouts in many other parts of the world.  

The rules are:

  • vehicles drive counter-clockwise around a roundabout
  • vehicles already on a roundabout have right of way
  • if you are approaching a roundabout slow down, give right of way to traffic on the roundabout, proceed only when it is safe to do so
  • rules for rotaries are the same as rules for roundabouts
  • watch for pedestrians and cyclists

Lights at roundabouts/rotaries:

  • If there are traffic lights at the roundabout you must obey them
  • A red light with a green arrow underneath means that you give way to traffic on the roundabout and proceed only when safe to do so
  • A red light on its own means stop until you get a red/green light. You must then give right of way to traffic already on the roundabout and proceed only when safe to do so
  • If you have a green light and no red light, you may proceed

Directions from a police officer at a rotary / roundabout: 
If a police or traffic officer is directing traffic you must obey him or her.

g) Seatbelts

In Nova Scotia, you are required to wear a seatbelt while the vehicle is in operation. There are a few exceptions, for example, if you have an exemption letter from your doctor based on a medical condition. You must be able to show the letter at the request of a police officer. If there are children in the vehicle, the driver is responsible for ensuring that all children under 16 are wearing a seatbelt or other appropriate restraint such as a babyseat. You must not allow a child to be carried on the lap of a front seat passenger. For a full list of exemptions from seat belts click here.     

Here are the child restraint safety rules of the road:

  • An infant is a child who is less than one year old or a child of any age who weighs less than 10 kg (22 lbs). Infants must be secured in a child seat that faces the rear of the car. It must meet the applicable Canada Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. The rear-facing child-seat must not be secured in a passenger seat that has an active frontal airbag.
  • Children aged between one and nine and who weigh more than 10 kg (22 lb) but less than 18 kg (40 lb) must be placed in a child restraint system that meets the applicable Canada Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.
  • Children under 9 years old, who weigh 18 kg (40 lb) or more but who are less than 145 cm (57 in.) in height must use a booster seat or other child restraint system that meets the Canada Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.

These rules do not apply if you are visiting Nova Scotia from another province or country and you are driving your own vehicle, provided your vehicle complies with the child restraint safety laws of the province or country where it is registered. However, you and everyone else in the car, including children, must wear a seatbelt if one is available for the seat they are in.

For information about Canada’s safety standards for child restraints systems visit:

h.  Daytime running lights

Drivers must use low-beam daytime running lights during daylight hours in Nova Scotia. Antique cars are exempt from this rule.   The fine for a first offence of failing to use daytime running lights is $176.45. Go to novascotia.ca/tran/roadsafety/daytimelights.asp for details about this law.

For more information about the rules of the road visit Nova Scotia’s Registry of Motor Vehicles website.

i.  Roadside driver's license suspensions for drinking & driving

Roadside license suspensions for drivers who get a ‘warn’ on a roadside screening test, or whose breath test shows a blood alcohol level between .05 and .08 (50 to 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 milliliters of blood) are :
•    7 days for a first suspension within 10 years;
•    15 days for a second suspension within 10 years; 
•    30 days for a third or subsequent suspension within 10 years.

The police may also impound the driver’s vehicle, and any towing and storage fees would have to be paid by the person who picks up the vehicle from the impound facility.  Drivers who receive a roadside suspension also have to pay a license reinstatement fee.  

The above penalties under Nova Scotia's Motor Vehicle Act are in addition to any criminal or other charges that may result from the same incident. 
Click here for information about drinking & driving.

j. Bicycles

New rules under Nova Scotia’s Motor Vehicle Act require drivers to give cyclists extra room, and to stay out of bike lanes.  The new rules apply as of 1 June 2011.  Here is what you need to know!

When passing a cyclist you must:

  • make sure there is enough space to safely pass, and
  • leave one metre of space between your vehicle and the cyclist.

You are allowed to safely cross the centre line of the road in order to pass a cyclist. 

You are not allowed to drive in a bike lane.  There are some exceptions.  For example, you may go into a bike lane if you need to:

  • go around a left-turning vehicle or cyclist, or
  • avoid hitting something on the road such as a pedestrian, animal, or other vehicle.

You must always yield right of way to any cyclist in the bike lane, and you are not allowed to park in a bike lane.  

When riding your bike, you should:

  • ride in the bike lane if there is one, or on the right side or shoulder of the road
  • go with the flow of traffic, and 
  • stay in single file unless you are passing another cyclist.

The fine for not giving a cyclist one-metre of space is $291.45 for a first offence, while the fine for driving in a bicycle lane when you shouldn’t is $693.95 for a first offence.

Click here for more about bicycle safety -gov.ns.ca/snsmr/access/drivers/be-a-safe-bicyclist.asp

Reviewed May 2015