A few days ago, a man in a Tim Horton’s drive-thru got a little more than TimBits™ and coffee when he was idling in his car waiting to pay for his food. A police officer issued a distracted driving ticket (equivalent of cell phone ticket) to the man for answering a text while in the drive-thru lane. This $287 ticket was in addition to the cost of his doughnuts.
In Canada, it is against the law to text and drive on any thoroughfare, public or private. By the letter of the law, the man was guilty. In New York, the laws are not as tough on drivers. A driver in New York can only be issued a cell phone ticket upon a “public highway,” which means “any highway, road, street, avenue, alley, public place, public driveway or any other public way.” N.Y. Veh. & Traf. Law § 134 (McKinney). While this definition may lead people to believe a drive-thru is a “public place,” rest assured Courts in New York have said they are not. Drive-thru’s exist for the benefit of the private owners of that establishment. They only benefit the public to the extent the private owner wishes.
To be clear, nobody should ever text while behind the wheel, moving or idling. But the more important message from this story is that if you should never choose Tim Hortons over Dunkin’ Donuts.