A Beaumont, Alberta man last week received a $287 ticket for texting and driving in the drive-thru of a Tim Hortons.
The man, according to police, left the RCMP officer with no choice as he was reportedly texting with 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?,” said Beaumont RCMP Cpl. Tim Dunlap, who spoke with officer who handed out the ticket and noted that the behaviour did not begin when the driver, A.J. Daoust, lined up for his morning coffee. “The officer actually saw the guy texting before he got to the drive-thru … which just happened to be where the interaction happened,” points out Dunlap.
A hotly debated question today in Canada no doubt centers around whether a $287 fine for texting in a drive-thru is fair. Some will argue it isn’t, but the rules are clear.
In Alberta, a driver cannot use a hand held device when behind the wheel no matter where they are. And while this item has the cutesy news appeal that gets ink, a person who texts and drives in a parking lot or laneway is overwhelmingly likely to do it on the highway as well. And that’s where this story loses all its whimsical appeal because texting and driving is a killer, plain and simple.
According to Alberta Transportation, distracted drivers are three times as likely to be involved in a crash. But distracted driving, of course, could mean anything from putting on makeup to eating. Data that focuses specifically on texting specifically uncovers some truly terrifying stats.
A study from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that drivers who use their phones to text message are 23 times as likely to be involved in a crash or near crash.
The fines for texting and driving vary from province to province in Canada. According to the Canadian Auto Association, Nova Scotia has the harshest texting penalties. If you are caught there you face four points off your license and fines that escalate to nearly $600 for a third offense. Alberta has the softest regulations, with a $172 fine and no points demerited.
In the United States, the National Research Council estimates that texting and driving is responsible for 1.6-million accidents each year. Punishment south of the border ranges from places were it is completely legal, like Arizona, to Alaska, where you will face fines of up to $10,000 and a year in prison for your first offense.
Some think we are still being way too soft on those who text and drive.
“What we’re dealing with is an epidemic of self-centered stupidity,” says Inc.com contributing editor Geoffrey James. “Maybe it’s time we treated texting while driving the same way we treat drunk driving–as a serious crime that greatly endangers the life and health of other people.” James suggests a graduated punishment that begins with a one year suspension of the guilty party’s drivers license, follows on with a large fine, and serves up strike three with jail time.
“I don’t care how important these drivers think they are,” says James. “They’ve got no right to put other people’s lives and health at risk just because they’re too lazy to pull off the road before reading and answering their texts.”
This being Canada it is, perhaps unsurprisingly, not the first time texting and driving at a Tim Horton’s has made national news. In March of this year, a 20-year old Manitoba woman, Lily Medynska, was pulled over because police suspected she was texting. Unlike Daoust, however, Medynska was able to escape the potential $200 ticket because the officer quickly found out she was not texting, but was rolling up the rim of her Tim Horton’s cup to see if she had won a prize in the company’s famous contest.
“I’d just finished my coffee, stopped at a red light and I was rolling up the edge of the rim. I hadn’t even finished rolling up the rim yet,” she said.