GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Jacob Freybler died on June 18, 2014, with the flash of emergency strobes on a stretch of 8th Avenue near Marne.
“That day is yesterday to me,” said Jim Freybler, Jacob Freybler’s father.
Jacob Freybler crossed the center line that night, striking another vehicle head-on. He was 17.
Deputies found Jacob Freybler’s cellphone in his lap. He had just gotten a text.
That was where Jim Freybler’s crusade began.
“How many people have died? How many people will continue to die? How many families are going to be distraught, destroyed because of this? How many people are going to have to live with it like I do?” said Jim Freybler.
Since that night, Jim Freybler has been relentless in his efforts to keep other drivers from making the same mistake. He regularly speaks to groups, especially high schoolers, to talk about the dangers of distracted driving. He has also created a Facebook page, called “Stay Alive Don’t Text and Drive,” to carry his message.
Jim Freybler has been part of the push to get new distracted driving laws on the books in Michigan. The state Senate passed the bills last week. They are expected to be signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in the coming weeks and would go into effect June 30.
“I would love to see the first ticket written to somebody for distracted driving, because then I know my son’s life just got traded for your life, and we saved you,” said Jim Freybler.
The bills would prohibit a driver from holding or using a cellphone or another mobile device while operating a car. Hands-free use would be exempt under the new law, as would holding the device to call 911.
A first violation would cost the driver $100 and/or 16 hours of community service. A second offense would result in a $250 fine and/or 24 hours of community service. The fines would double if the driver caused a crash.
“(The consequences are) still something that needs to be worked with. We look at (distracted driving) more as comparable to drunk driving, because you are taking out somebody’s life or hurting someone really bad because of a choice,” Jim Freybler said.
The bills are expected to result in more tickets and ultimately more data. Under current law, proving a driver was texting is difficult at best. But the new bills would allow police officers to pull you over if they simply see the device in your hand. The more tickets issued, the more data available.
“Once we collect the information we need, they’re going to see that it’s a far bigger problem than what it really is — what they think it is,” Jim Freybler said.
The bills passed the Senate May 10. That same day, Jim Freybler visited his son’s grave.
“I went out there with my wife and I said, ‘We did it. You drove me to this, and we did it,'” Jim Freybler said.