Witness: Driving instructor was texting while teaching

Johnny Lopez tells Local 10 News he was using GPS on phone

PLANTATION, Fla. – Caught on camera, the owner of a South Florida driving school seems to have a problem following the rules of the road.

Darryl Gilbert said he was driving in a school zone on Palm Avenue near Johnson Street in Pembroke Pines when he noticed the person next to him texting and driving.

"I was driving along in a school zone," Gilbert said. "As I looked over I noticed a guy in the car next to me texting."

Gilbert said the side of the car the man was driving said "A+ Driving School."

Local 10 has learned the man behind the wheel was Johnny Lopez. State records show he is the owner of A+.

The man who was caught on his phone was Johnny Lopez. Records show he's the owner of the driving school.

With a hidden camera, Local 10 News investigator Jeff Weinsier followed Lopez, who is also an instructor, while he had a student behind the wheel.

Local 10's camera caught Lopez looking down at his phone while teaching. Weinsier approached Lopez and asked him what he teaches his students about texting and driving.

"It's incorrect," Lopez said. "It's against the law, first of all."

Weinsier: "Even looking at your phone?"

Lopez: "Even looking at your phone, exactly."

Weinsier: "Even looking down while you are driving?"

Lopez: "That is correct."

Weinsier: "What do you do with your phone?"

Lopez: "While I'm instructing I put it in the glove compartment, so I don't use my phone."

Local 10 then showed Lopez the pictures and video of him looking at his phone while in the vehicle.

Weinsier: "What are you doing there?"

Lopez: "Well, what I do sometimes is I use my phone as a GPS."

Weinsier: "Do you practice what you preach?"

Lopez: "I try as best as possible. Definitely. I'm not going to deny it. I am looking at my phone, OK. To say that I was texting and driving, that's not true."

Gilbert said he rolled down his window to try to get the driver's attention.

"I was going to let this guy know that I'm watching him, a driving instructor texting," Gilbert said. "But he never noticed me, he never looked up -- never, ever looked up once."

"I don't think there is anything wrong with me looking at my GPS on my phone," Lopez told Local 10.

"This negates everything we try to do," Joel Gordon, the battalion chief for the Plantation Fire Department, told Local 10.

Gorden is part of "Take 5 to Stay Alive," an initiative to teach kids not to text and drive.

"The pictures are very frustrating and it is surprising," Gordon said.

The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicle regulates and licenses driving schools and instructors.

"The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles expects instructors of commercial driving schools to abide by the very traffic laws of Florida that they are responsible for teaching to new drivers," spokesman John Lucas said in a statement to Local 10.

Local 10 learned there are very few regulations or qualifications to become a driving instructor. A driver must be over 21 years old, have a valid license and can't have three or more at-fault crashes for three consecutive years.

The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles said it will look into this incident.

Follow Jeff Weinsier on Twitter @jweinsier

Follow Local 10 News on Twitter @WPLGLocal10