Parents, imagine this. Your teen is out driving around at night, and you’re sitting in angst waiting for them to come back home. Shortly later, you hear a knock at the door in the middle of night. You look out the window and notice several police officers standing at your front door. You open the door, and are told that your child has been killed in a fatal car wreck. For those of you who are on the other side of the screen and are thinking ‘this could never happen to me or my teen,’ you’re wrong.
Despite his profession of being a sportscaster for WBNS-TV, Dom Tiberi was just like any other typical man. He loves to cook, watch the Cincinnati Reds, and more importantly, he loves his three children. However, little did Tiberi know that he was about to begin a new journey promoting and engaging children and teens about the hazards of distracted driving. This new mission has a title. And that title is “Maria’s Message.”
September 17, 2013. A night Tiberi and his family will never forget. “It’s every parent’s worst nightmare that we’re livin’,” said Tiberi. At 10:38 that night, Tiberi’s daughter, Maria Tiberi, left the house to go see her sister at work, and was killed 5 minutes later. “Something caused her to hit a semi truck at 53mph,” said Tiberi, “We know that she wasn’t on her cell phone, and we know that she wasn’t texting.” Police have yet to figure out exactly what caused Maria to become distracted.
Below is a video containing an interview with the Tiberi family
Despite the mysterious twist, Maria Tiberi is no different than the hundreds of other teens whose lives are shattered on the roadways every year. “Every 16 minutes, somebody in the United States dies in an automobile accident,” said Tiberi, “We just saw a tragedy in Johnstown where three kids lost their lives and they were all ages fifteen to seventeen.”
So what has caused this new and dangerous trend to contaminate the driving habits of so many teens? It might have to do with the major ego of many teens who think that they’re “good” at texting and driving at the same time. “We all thought when we were sixteen that we were ten feet tall,” Tiberi said. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 97% of teens say texting and driving is dangerous, yet 43% admit to doing it. The popularity and evolution of mobile devices has sent many teens on a new rampage to become technologically involved in every aspect of their daily lives.
Tiberi’s loss has sent him on a new quest to speak out to teens all over the state about the devastating impacts and dangers of distracted driving. “I’ve been to sixteen high schools,” said Tiberi, “There are usually not too many dry eyes in the auditoriums that I’ve been to.” Some of those auditoriums includes those in schools such as Lancaster, Canal Winchester, Dublin Jerome, and Northmor. “I will continue to do this for as long as kids wanna hear from me,” Tiberi said.
Parents, even though the statistics are frightening, there is no reason to panic just yet. “Automobile accidents are so preventable,” Tiberi said. And these accidents can be even more preventable if parents are taking the proper actions to make sure their teens are driving responsibly and safely. “Don’t be afraid to be a parent,” said Tiberi, “We’ve got to set better examples.” Adults are just as vulnerable to texting and driving just as much as teens are. “Bottom line is, none of us should do it,” Tiberi said. Also, don’t be afraid to discard cell phones when necessary. Think about it, what’s more important? A person’s life, or what Julie said to Bob about Kate?
Tiberi’s dedicated efforts have pushed Ohio’s Governor John Kasich to sign legislation designating September as Safe Driving Awareness Month. Kasich has also vowed additional state efforts to draw attention to the dangers of distracted driving. “I think the main thing we need to do is step up the education and step up the awareness,” Tiberi said. The next step in Tiberi’s mission is to create a defensive driving program for students to undergo. “I think moms and dads need to do their part to make sure that kids learn the right way to [drive],” Tiberi said.
So, what are you going to do the next time you set foot in your car? Or how about the next time you pass by an accident? Instead of taking your life for granted, remember Tiberi’s words, “if it can happen to me and my family, it can certainly happen to you and your family.” Driving is a privilege that can instantly be turned into a deadly danger with just one small distraction. Don’t be a statistic when you can be part of the movement.
Here are some tips to prevent distracted driving brought to you from AAA Exchange:
1. If there is some other activity demanding your attention, instead of trying to attempt it while driving, pull of the road and park your vehicle in a safe place.
2. To avoid temptation, power down or store away all electronic devices or anything else that may cause you to take your focus off the road
3. Food can also be a distraction. Eat meals or snacks before or after your trip. When going through a drive thru, try eating in the parking lot.
4. Finish dressing and personal grooming at home, not while driving.
5. Make any vehicular adjustments before you start driving. Address systems such as GPS, seats, mirrors, and sound systems before driving. Also, decide on your route and check traffic/weather conditions beforehand.
6. Store loose gear, possessions, and other materials that could roll around in your car, so you do not feel tempted to reach for them on the floor or seat.
To find out more about Maria’s message visit 10tv.com/mariasmessage and make the pledge to not become a distracted driver