$287 ticket for texting in Tim Hortons drive-thru? Police say there’s more to the story

UPDATE – 12:30 p.m ET on Dec. 02: The driver of the car responded, admits to “flipping the officer off.”

A Tim Hortons’ run is going to cost an Alberta man a lot more than your average double-double.

The man, named by local media as A.J. Daoust, was given a $287 ticket for using his cell phone while behind the wheel in a Tim Hortons drive-thru in Beaumont, Alta. Daoust has said he might fight the ticket.

WATCH: It’s been 5 years, have distracted driving laws worked?

That may sounds a little drastic, but according to local RCMP there are a few details left out.

“Of course when you hear one side only you think, are you serious?” Cpl. Tim Dunlap said.

“There’s a little bit more to the story than just him sitting there minding his own business and getting a ticket.”

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The Leduc Integrated Traffic Unit member who handed out the ticket saw the man driving and texting before he entered the drive-thru, said Dunlap, who is acting detachment commander for Beaumont RCMP. He spoke with the officer who gave out the ticket and read the report.

“He was going to pull him over, but the guy got into the drive-thru so he thought… I’ll leave him be,” said Dunlap.

The unit member decided to also get a coffee and entered the drive-thru, which is when he saw the alleged bad behaviour continue.

Dunlap said while in the drive-thru the man was seen texting with two hands above the steering wheel, while moving forward. At that point, the officer felt “compelled” to do something, and planned to give him a verbal warning.

“The guy was very abusive verbally and gave [the officer] the finger,” Dunlap said.

“Because of the way the conversation went the officer decided, ‘you know what, I’m not going to give him a break after all, I’m going to give him a ticket.'”

According to officials, it didn’t end there.

“The gentleman was driving forward, looking behind him through the back window giving the finger to the officer, meanwhile not looking forward he drove right out into oncoming traffic blindly.”

The man’s exit manoeuvre could have snagged him another ticket, Dunlap said.

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Global News reached out to Daoust, but did not receive a response by time of publication.

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Distracted driving is a problem that has grown with the popularity of the omnipresent smartphone, and lawmakers in Canada have worked to tackle the deadly issue. Distracted driving has surpassed impaired driving as the No. 1 cause of road fatalities in Ontario, and in B.C. it is the second-leading cause of car crash deaths in the province.

However, many drivers would likely be surprised to hear that texting while stopped in a drive-thru would garner a steep fine.

While laws vary by province and territory, the Alberta Traffic Safety Act states:

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“No individual shall drive or operate a vehicle on a highway while at the same time (a) holding, viewing or manipulating a cellular telephone, radio communication device or other communication device that is capable of receiving or transmitting telephone communication, electronic data, electronic mail or text messages, or (b) holding, viewing or manipulating a hand-held electronic device or a wireless electronic device.”

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And don’t let the wording fool you.

“‘Highway’ does not necessarily mean an actual highway like you and I think about, it’s any kind of roadway,” said Ashley Stasiewich, an Edmonton paralegal who works as a traffic court agent with law firm Moreau & Company.

According to the traffic act, it can be on any public or private-owned roadway “that the public is ordinarily entitled or permitted to use for the passage or parking of vehicles.”

“So even though he was in a drive-thru… that is what the legislation does say,” said Stasiewich, who is not involved in the Tim Hortons case. “This could be something where an officer’s discretion could be used.”

Distracted driving brings only a fine in Alberta, not demerit points. Stasiewich said it can be worth challenging the ticket in court if a person has the time.

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While drivers face harsh penalties in many parts of Canada for distracted driving behaviours such as using their phones, poll results released in June found that seven in 10 Canadian drivers admit to driving distracted.

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