I’m new in Ontario and wondering: Can I text on the phone while driving on private property – eg, down Tim Hortons driveway? – hardness
Ontario is the only place in Canada where you can legally text by car – but you probably shouldn’t.
“It is certainly a good idea for people to step away from their devices any time their vehicle is not parked,” Bill Dixon, an Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) spokesperson, said in an email. “You get distracted by texting in the parking lot or even in a [drive-through] The pass could still lead to a collision.”
In every province, including Ontario, the rules say you can’t text while you’re behind the wheel unless your car is parked.
But in Ontario, the rules of the road – the Highway Traffic Act (HTA) – apply only to the roads. It does not apply to any private property — even if that property is available to the general public, Dixon said.
It gets complicated, but HTA applies to highways – that is any public road. The HTA defines a highway as “a public highway, street, road, park lane, driveway, square, place, bridge, bridge or bridge, or any part thereof designated or used by the general public for the passage of vehicles.” So, technically, you can text in Tim Hortons Road or in a Costco parking lot in Ontario without facing the hefty fines, three defect points and driver’s license suspension that comes with violating the provincial law against driving while using a handheld device.
In fact, because Ontario parking lots and driveways are not considered roads under the HTA, you can drive in them without a driver’s license, vehicle registration, or insurance—although you’ll need to walk a public road there.
Although posted speed limits and traffic lights have no legal force on private property in Ontario, you can still face serious driving fees under the Canadian Criminal Code, which applies everywhere in Canada.
Park ‘n’ text?
In every other county, the rules of the road apply to any private property open to the public. Therefore, they will apply in the car but not, for example, on a private farm.
This means you can be charged in the car in Montreal, Calgary or Halifax if you’re texting a friend to see if they want a double.
While the law also applies to car traffic in British Columbia, police say they likely won’t charge you if you get caught texting in one.
“Legally, yes, we can charge you, but that’s really outrageous because it’s not in keeping with the spirit and purpose of the law,” said Corporal Mike Halskov, spokesperson for the BBC Highway Patrol. “The intent of the law is to prevent injuries and deaths from crashes – this usually doesn’t happen in passing cars.”
Halskov said he had not heard of anyone being accused of texting in a car “a long time ago”.
In 2019, a driver in Surrey, British Columbia, received a warning for sending a text message in a McDonald’s car. So where do the rules of the road apply, when can you legally write text?
The vehicle must be off the road or parked legally [on the roadway] It does not move and does not obstruct traffic,” said OPP’s Dixon.
In each county, it must be parked properly. This means that you have parked safely – as long as it is in a place where you are allowed to park – and moved to Park.
“You can’t stop in a lane,” Halskov said. “And you can’t text when you stop at a red light – even if you put it in Park.”
If you’re texting a red light, Halskov said, it could cause a crash if you don’t see the light turn green right away.
“It turns out that it takes a few seconds for a person to realize what’s going on and switch off the phone,” Halskov said. “When they do that, they tend to go without really looking — that’s when the collisions happen.”
Do you have a driving question? send it to me firstname.lastname@example.org And put “driving concerns” in the subject line. Emails that do not contain the correct subject line may not be answered. Canada is a big place, so tell us where you are so we can find an answer for your city and province.