Freybler and Zimmerman’s efforts combating distracted driving recognized by Governor’s Traffic Safety Advisory Commission

Pair played pivotal role in championing hands-free driving legislation in state

Jim Freybler and Laurel Zimmerman were honored with Outstanding Achievement Awards on Wednesday from Katie Bower, director of the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning (left), and William Miller, Chair of the Governor’s Traffic Safety Advisory Commission (GTSAC) Awards Committee, part of the two-day Michigan Traffic Safety Summit held in East Lansing.

Jim Freybler and Laurel Zimmerman have been recognized by the Governor’s Traffic Safety Advisory Commission (GTSAC) for their work in championing hands-free legislation in Michigan.

The pair were presented with an Outstanding Achievement Award on Wednesday during the GTSAC Awards ceremony as part of the 27th annual Michigan Traffic Safety Summit in East Lansing, hosted by the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning. The GTSAC honors organizations, programs and individuals for distinguished involvement in traffic safety.

In 2022, 57 people were killed and 5,905 injured in 15,441 motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver. Distracted driving is any activity that diverts attention from driving, including talking or texting on your mobile device, and eating.

On December 28, 2010, Zimmerman’s daughter, Ally, a 16-year-old Romeo High School student, was killed when the car in which she was a passenger was struck by a distracted driver. Jim Santilli of the Transportation Improvement Association joined forces with Zimmerman to create the “Remembering Ally: Distracted Driving Awareness Campaign.” The Hands-Free Michigan Campaign was publicly announced on March 30, 2016. Freybler, who lost his son, Jacob, to texting and driving, joined the campaign later in 2016.

Since then, they have worked tirelessly to pass hands-free legislation by speaking at press conferences, testifying at legislative hearings, meeting with elected officials, and assisting with the creation of the official Hands-Free Michigan website. They were also instrumental in stopping the passage of a bill that would have made the hands-free law unenforceable. Freybler and Zimmerman worked with Santilli to create new language for legislation. An effective hands-free law was enacted in the state on June 30, 2023.

The GTSAC was formed in 2002 to serve as the state’s forum for identifying key traffic safety challenges and developing and implementing plans to address those issues. The commission includes representatives from the departments of State Police, Transportation, Education, State, and Health & Human Services, as well as the Office of the Governor, the Aging and Adult Services Agency, and the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning. There are also three representatives from local government appointed by the governor.