‘Maria’s Message’ And Distracted Driving

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So often we hear stories and statistics about the dangers of distracted driving, but we seldom put a face on the facts behind the tragedies. Unfortunately, one newscaster out of central Ohio has been handed the situation where he has no choice.

And that face, is his little girl Maria, a vivacious 21-year-old who died on September 17, 2013.

Dom Tiberi was sitting in his “worry chair” at 2:25 a.m. waiting for Maria to come home. She’d left the house earlier that night, telling her mom, “I love you more” as she walked out the door.

Her intention was to drive in to Columbus and see her sister Kelsey at work. Dom admitted he had a bad feeling about her leaving so late — it was about 10 p.m. at the time — but he didn’t expect to get the news he would receive two minutes later when he stood at the front door hearing the awful news from a policeman friend.


In Dom’s Own Words

“At 2:25 a.m., I heard the sound of a car door slam. The dogs started barking and I thought, thank God, she is home. At 2:27 a.m. the doorbell rang rapidly five times … I remember saying to myself, ‘What is she doing? She knows her mother is sleeping and has to be up at 4 a.m. to go to work! I thought she had forgotten her keys again.”

Dom said he “looked out the side window and saw seven policemen” standing on his front porch. “As I opened the door, I knew something was wrong. I saw the Chief of Dublin police, a friend of mine, Heinz von Eckartsberg. The officer next to him was also the chaplain. There were a total of four policemen from Dublin and three from Hilliard. That moment will be frozen in time forever.”

Dom said he friend Heinz asked him if Maria drove a red car. “I said yes. He then said the words that no parent ever wants to hear. ‘Dom I don’t know how to tell you this, but Maria was involved in a horrible accident and she did not survive.’”


From Grief Comes Action

Dom describes Maria as “always being on my shoulder,” and he wears her initials wherever he goes. He admits that “a piece of me died that night,” but he’s not ready to allow tragedy to win the day.

In February, he and his family, in conjunction with WBNS, the news station where he works, launched “Maria’s Message,” a promotional effort to raise awareness of distracted driving and prevent the tragedy of parents burying their children from ever happening again.

As Dom Tiberi himself states, “Distracted driving: it’s texting, it’s playing on the phone, it’s eating, it’s putting makeup on, and we may never know what happened to her [Maria]. Clearly something happened for her to hit a semi-truck at 53 miles an hour. We can either give up, and stay in self-pity, or we can pick ourselves up and try to do something about this. I never wanted Maria to be a statistic. I want people to know that if it can happen to me and my family, it can certainly happen to your family. It is the number one killer of the age group eight to 24. I want to save lives. We want to save lives. We don’t want to have any more tragedies.”


Interesting Facts About Distracted Driving

Earlier this week, Nationwide Insurance joined the effort to get the word out about “Maria’s Message,” stating that “Nationwide Insurance is a proud sponsor of ‘Maria’s Message’ and shares Dom’s efforts to end all types of distracted driving. Together, we can honor Maria’s spirit by doing everything we can to make our roads safer and prevent distracted-driving accidents.”

The “Maria’s Message” effort has also shared some interesting facts about distracted driving to put it into perspective. For example:

  • 11 percent of all drivers under the age of 20 involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crash
  • This same age group has the largest portion of drivers who were distracted
  • Sending or receiving texts takes a driver’s eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, the equivalent — at 55 miles per hour — of driving the length of an entire football field, blind-folded


In Summary

Most people know distracted driving is dangerous and that it should never happen, yet a vast majority of individuals have no problem texting or grooming or doing something that diverts their attention from the road. Human beings — mostly good people — can get a false sense of their own driving prowess, which can lead to tragedy.

No person believes they’ll ever become a statistic, but that doesn’t stop it from happening. By putting a human face on the dangers of distracted driving, “Maria’s Message” could make a bigger difference than any set of statistics and facts ever could.

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