My First Year Driving in Alberta: A New Immigrant's Story

Soon after moving to Canada from Sudan, Metkel Habte realized how important the freedom of mobility is in a sprawling province like Alberta. Not only when you’re trying to get from point A to point B, but also when you’re exploring the rest of the province.

He picked up a job working in a North Edmonton warehouse. Though his workplace was only 10 km from his home, the commute was 90 minutes in both directions. “I had to make two bus connections so I spent a lot of time waiting at bus stops. I couldn’t wait to drive to work one day,” says Habte. That all changed when Habte bought his first car in Alberta. His 90-minute one-way commute was cut drastically down to 15 minutes and his newfound freedom also took him on a road trip to Jasper to see the mountains.

Be Aware & Know the Laws

Driving in Edmonton is definitely different than driving in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, says Habte. In Khartoum, where the population is more than 5.5 million, traffic is congested and there are lots of pedestrians walking into traffic against the lights. “When I drive here in Alberta, I feel very comfortable because people obey the rules and they’re enforced.” Distracted driving and drinking and driving laws increase road safety, he says.

While there are differences, the task of driving remains the same. “You must be focused. You always have to be aware of what’s around you, who is coming and where are they going.”

Adjusting Habits

He recalls his first attempt at driving in the snow and what it was like to brake on ice for the first time. The day after he bought his car, a snowstorm blanketed the city with several inches of snow. Although he knew winter driving required more caution and attention, he wasn’t comfortable driving in the snow that day. He took the bus to work and ventured out the next day when the roads were plowed. But, he still had a close call. “I pressed on the brake at an intersection and my car slid the other way. Luckily, it was early in the morning and no other cars were around me.”

Confidence Comes with Experience

Now with some winter driving experience, Habte feels more confident driving in Alberta, especially during the icy, snowy, colder months. You learn quickly how to adjust your driving for the road conditions, he says. “The more I drove in snow, the easier it got. You just have to slow down and drive cautiously.”

Learn how to drive safely in the winter in our Online & In-Vehicle Winter Driver program

And if you need to upgrade or get your driver’s licence, AMA offers road test scheduling at all AMA centres across Alberta.

– By Justin Bell

Westworld is the award-winning magazine of the Alberta Motor Association. It offers a mix of travel features, auto trends and special member savings.