Parents advocate distracted driving law in honor of son

Posted at 6:16 PM, May 22, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-22 18:16:36-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- A family in Grand Rapids is changing lives one driver at a time, dedicated to ending distracted driving after losing their son. Now they've helped introduce legislation that would strengthen distracted driving law statewide.

Jim Freybler is a well-known voice against distracted driving. He is even louder now calling for statewide change: in March he helped introduce pending legislation that would make it illegal to hold a phone and drive, even while stopped at a traffic light.

House Bill 4466 would strengthen current state law known as Kelsey's Law that bans texting and driving. Holding a phone behind the wheel would become a primary offense, meaning it would warrant being pulled over, possible fines and points on the driver's license.

"We are just trying to save lives," said Freybler.

Three years ago June 18, Freybler lost his son Jacob. The 17-year-old Kenowa Hills High School junior was killed moments after sending two texts.

"Everybody’s out there texting and driving," said Freybler.

"For me, when I see that, I’m angry because I know what the end result can be. It’s no fun burying a child and I came close to burying my wife."

Weeks ago distracted driving hit home once again. Police say a driver on M-45 who was distracted hit his wife's car, hospitalizing her, and totaling the car behind her.

Rep. Martin Howrylak, (R) - Troy, is the key sponsor who introduced the pending legislation in March, which is now in the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. The next meeting, including testimony, will be May 30 he says.

Another sponsor of the bipartisan HB 4466, Rep. David LaGrand, (D) - Grand Rapids, says this change is mandatory.

"Everyone should really be aware of the general bad trend in increase of fatalities," said LaGrand. "I think we all have to look at our own driving habits and just remember, we all feel like we’re above average drivers and we’re not."

The pledge Jim Freybler created for student drivers to sign and commit to driving phone-free.

As Freybler continues to speak to students, he changed All Star Driver's Education nationwide: they now include his pledge asking students to commit to driving phone-free. Meanwhile, each year he awards Jacob's Memorial Scholarship Fund to graduating students about to pursue degrees in public service work.

"Until it happens to you, it doesn't change," said Freybler. "If I can change it before then and get it into their head, then we've made a difference."