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In "The Official Ministry of Transportation (MTO) Driver’s Handbook", they said

It is illegal to drive in reverse on a divided road that has a speed limit of more than 80 km/h.

Is it legal to drive in reverse on a non-divided road that has a speed limit of more than 80 km/h?

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  • 1
    Do you have an example of a road like that? I struggle to think of a non-divided road that can even HAVE a speed limit that is higher than 80 km/h without it being a huge safety risk.
    – Nzall
    May 21, 2023 at 20:40
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    @Nzall In the UK at least, single-carriageways (undivided roads) outside built up areas by default have a speed limit of a little under 100km/h for cars, unless otherwise indicated. Of course, that doesn't mean it's always wise to travel at that speed.
    – Dan
    May 21, 2023 at 22:09
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    Here's an example in Texas, USA, of a non-divided highway with a speed limit of 75 mph, or roughly 120.7 km/h. goo.gl/maps/yGLvY2sjRz2fFVfg6 I think there are lots of these all over the rural parts of the USA.
    – shoover
    May 22, 2023 at 1:22
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    @Nzall Qld, Australia has a default speed limit of 100kph in rural areas. The roads here are not divided and sometimes aren't even wide enough to properly accommodate traffic in both directions at once. Driving 100kph on these roads may well be a safety risk, but they exist and you can do it if you want.
    – aroth
    May 22, 2023 at 3:00
  • Worth noting that on a non-divided road you can (subject to traffic conditions and other prohibitions) just turn around when a suitable gap in the traffic is available and drive forwards on the other side to get back to where you had been - an option not available on a divided road, which perhaps forms part of the motivation for the rule. Perhaps you could elaborate on the circumstances in which you might feel a need to drive in reverse on a non-divided road like this?
    – Steve
    May 22, 2023 at 6:47

2 Answers 2

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The only specific prohibition of "backing" is at s. 157 of the Highway Traffic Act:

157 (1) No driver of a vehicle shall back the vehicle upon the roadway or shoulder of any highway divided by a median strip1 on which the speed limit is in excess of 80 kilometres per hour ...

However, there is a careless driving prohibition:

130 (1) Every person is guilty of the offence of driving carelessly who drives a vehicle or street car on a highway without due care and attention or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the highway.

And there is the Criminal Code's dangerous driving offence:

320.13 (1) Everyone commits an offence who operates a conveyance in a manner that, having regard to all of the circumstances, is dangerous to the public.

It would be misleading to say that it is absolutely "legal" or "allowed" to "drive in reverse on a non-divided road that has a speed limit of more than 80 km/h". It just isn't prohibited by s. 157(1) of the Highway Traffic Act.


1. Note that "divided" in the question was just a paraphrase of "divided by a median strip." There are many sections of road in Ontario that are not divided in that sense, with speed limits above 80 km/h, including much of the trans-Canada highway.

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    – Dale M
    May 22, 2023 at 10:31
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I would interpret the rules, including those that address divided highways, as saying:

  1. It is unlawful to operate a vehicle in a manner that is needlessly unsafe.

  2. Going backward on areas that are in or adjacent to traffic lanes with a speed limit of 80mph or higher is presumptively needlessly unsafe.

Situations may arise in which a vehicle would have no practical alternative except to drive backward for some distance on the shoulder of a high-speed divided road. If a collision occurs in the middle of the road and a motorist manages to stop just a foot or two before it, the normal prohibition against backing up would not be interpreted as forbidding the motorist from backing up to the extent necessary to clear the obstruction.

I would guess that rules about road design probably require the posting of speed limits below 80km/h on divided carriageways which are adjacent to parking spaces or directly connected to driveways. If a narrow driveway is connected to a road, it generally be expected that people would back from the driveway onto the road. Motorists should make reasonable effort to avoid traveling backward further than necessary, but there are generally no precise rules because it's imposslble to anticipate what courses of action would or would not be practical in every imaginable scenario.

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