An Alberta man was just fined $300 for texting in a Tim Hortons drive-thru. Could it happen here in Ontario? — Frank
"At Timmies. Do u want a double double?"
Sending that text in a drive-thru won't get you a fine with your order in Ontario, police say.
"They can only be charged if they are on a highway, which includes the sidewalk and driveway into the establishment," says Const. Clint Stibbe, with Toronto police traffic services. "The drive-thru, if on private property, is not included because the highway ends at the edge of the sidewalk closest to the establishment."
That's because Ontario's Highway Traffic Act (HTA) doesn't apply on private property, like drive-thrus or shopping centre parking lots.
But if you're on the road, it's illegal to touch a mobile device, even if you're stopped in traffic or at a red light. If you're caught, it's three demerits and a set fine of $490. If it goes to court, a judge can increase the fine to $1,000.
Even though you can't be charged under the HTA in a parking lot, you can still be charged under the Criminal Code of Canada if you hit something or someone.
But Alberta's traffic law, the Traffic Safety Act, does apply on private property. A Beaumont, Alta. man was fined $287 for texting in a drive-thru last Thursday.
We contacted the RCMP, who say they can't comment further on the case as it's before the courts.
But yesterday, Beaumont officer Corp. Kevin Dunlap told CBC News the officer saw the man texting on the road before entering the drive-thru. Dunlap, who had read the arresting officer's report, says the officer had intended to give a warning to the man, who kept texting when he got into the drive-thru, holding the phone in both hands and steering with his knees.
"Other drivers are looking at him and looking at the officer, looking back at him, throwing their hands up like, 'Don't you see this? Why aren't you doing something?'"
In a since-deleted Reddit post, the man says he had "flipped off" the officer and called him a "useless pig f***."
In Ontario, police could have given the man a ticket in the drive-thru because they saw him texting earlier on the road, Stibbe says.
"If I see you commit an offence and then you drive for ten miles, I can still charge you, as long as I don't lose sight of you," Stibbe says.
We checked with police in Vancouver and Montreal. Vancouver police say you could technically be charged with distracted driving if texting while in a drive-thru in B.C. — but it would be up to the officer to decide.
"(It's) dependent on the circumstances of the offence, driving history and if the officer believes issuing a ticket is the most appropriate action," says Vancouver police spokesman Const. Brian Montague.
Ontario's the only province where none of the rules apply on private property. In Quebec, some driving laws apply on private property and others — like the distracted driving law — don't.
"So the answer is no, it could not happen in Quebec," says Montreal police spokesperson Anna-Claude Poulin.
The law aside, you should only be texting when you are parked, no matter where you are, says the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA).
"There's a billion things you can miss seeing when you look down for a second, no matter how slow you're going," says CAA spokesperson Julia Kent. "There could be a stroller."
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