Monday, January 7, 2013

Driving in Nunavut

Coming from a suburb in the Toronto area and moving to a hamlet of 1,800 people we weren't worried about driving and any differences we could encounter. After all, it's not like we're in Europe and driving on the wrong side of the road or anything drastic - how different could it be?

Well. It's not different, per se because you still have to follow general rules of the road (for the most part). But there are a lot of differences to note, and that we had to get used to pretty fast.

Edit: I stand corrected. There is a law in Nunavut that requires seatbelts and car seats for children. However, the law is not enforced here in Baker. 
  1. There is no enforcement of the law that requires you to wear a seatbelt while in a vehicle. 
  2. There is also no enforcement of the law that requires proper car seats for children in vehicles. (Things in the territory are starting to change, and Iqaluit, the capital of Nunavut, recently announced that it will enforce the law that makes it mandatory to wear seatbelts and have proper car seats installed in vehicles. Not sure when Baker Lake is going to follow suit, but I haven't heard talks of it even being mentioned here.)
  3. The speed limit in the hamlet is 30 km/h. The road to the airport is 70 km/h. (Most cars will follow these speeds.)
  4. It is socially acceptable to pass a recreational vehicle if they are moving slower than your truck, but not really acceptable to pass another truck. (It is never socially acceptable to tail someone closely to make them move faster.)
  5. ATVs/quads/Hondas and snowmobiles drive year-round on the road, on the side of the road and across the ice in the winter. 
  6. It is only a law to wear a helmet on recreational vehicles during the summer months. (This one I don't understand?)
  7. There doesn't seem to be a limit as to how many people you can fit on recreational vehicles. It is not uncommon to see a family with multiple children riding on a quad with 1 or 2 adults - no one wearing helmets or strapped's unnerving.
  8. There are no crosswalks or street lights (only stop signs), and people will jaywalk across any road at any given point in time. You have to be extra vigilant in case someone walks ahead of the car.
  9. Stop signs are only for roads going up/down towards the lake. Roads going left/right always have the right of way. (Before the stop signs were erected in the summer of 2012, this was just a known fact that everyone followed even though there were no markers.)
  10. "Parking lots" are not really enforced. If you can find a spot in front of the door of the Northern, you can park whatever you're driving right there, however, it is mainly for recreational vehicles.
So. Not extremely different, but different enough. Will we ever get used to 30 km/h or looking over and seeing a toddler sitting on a quad without a helmet? Probably not, but we're adjusting!



  1. Maybe 6 is because the snow is soft?

    8 is pretty much like the rest of Canada. Once I stood at the side of the road in Edmonton and traffic came to a halt (even though I didn't want to cross)...I crossed anyway so I wouldn't look like an idiot.

    1. Someone told me it was so people could wear their winter hats/hoods which are lined with thick fur.

      Not that fur is as hard as a helmet, though.

  2. You'd do well to familiarize yourself with the Motor Vehicle Act of Nunavut, especially section 146 with regard to seatbelts and child seats.

    Just because someone you know in Baker says it ain't so, doesn't mean it ain't so. We have lots of laws in Nunavut. Some pepole follow them, and some don't.

    1. I did not know there was an actual law. It's just not enforced here, as I've seen the RCMP let everyone go by without stopping them, so I assumed. My mistake.

      I have corrected my post to reflect that.