• Jack Almond

In memory of Maria: One story unites community against distracted driving

One text, one glance. That is all it takes to end a life. Distracted driving is a problem in today’s world, and the story of one girl is helping change it.

On Sept. 17, 2013, Maria Tiberi, daughter of Dom Tiberi, ran into the back of a semi-truck going 53 mph. She passed away in the tragic accident, and Dom, sportscaster for 10 TV, started Maria’s Message, a foundation to create awareness about distracted driving. They also hold safe driving classes to help kids learn skills that they would not learn in a normal driver’s education, like dealing with poor conditions or controlling your car while skidding.

“Distracted driving is anything that takes your attention away from the road,” Tiberi said. “Everyone drives worse when distracted and is more likely to get in an accident.”

Technology is one reason distracted driving is such a prevalent problem. Most people have their cell phones on them at all times, and it is very tempting to use it at times when they shouldn’t.

“Now the car is used for business, phone calls, music, eating, and even for makeup,” Tiberi said. People need to get back to the “mindset of getting from point A to point B.”

Young people often become the target of talk against distracted driving. In reality, the issue spans across the board, no matter what age.

English teacher Kelly Cable said, “I would like to think that it gets better with age, but I see adults putting on makeup in the car all of the time. Adults feel like they are invincible and the rules do not apply to them.”

Cable has a son who can get his learner's permit soon and, like most parents, fears her son may become a victim of distracted driving.

“I imagine he will be distracted with his phone, but I trust him,” Cable said. She is “more worried about other drivers being distracted.”

One reason young drivers may not realize how dangerous it is to drive distracted is due to the way their parents drive. Although parents may be more experienced, it is still unsafe to drive distracted, and they should still set a good example for their kids.

“Young drivers see their parents driving distracted and think that it is OK for them to do it,” Tiberi said.

Cable said that she puts her phone face down in the car when she is with her son so that he can see she is not using it.

The only way people can completely get rid of distracted driving is to change the way we look at the problem. People do not understand the true danger of the issue, according to Tiberi.

“When I was a kid, we did not even have seatbelts. Now, it is unheard of to have a car without seatbelts,” Tiberi said. He said that people need to do what they did with seat belts to distracted driving and change the culture of the problem.

The fact of the matter is that this is more than a law, and the danger is more than a ticket. According to CNN, car crashes are the no. 1 killer of young people in the United States. This problem can be prevented in many ways.

“The easiest solution is to just put the phone in the glovebox, “ Tiberi said. People have to “get rid of the temptation” of using their phones when they shouldn’t be.

Whether it is yours or someone else’s, no text is worth a life. To help promote safe driving, take the pledge at www.10tv.com to never drive distracted. You can also visit www.mariatiberifoundation.org to learn more about Maria’s Message and get information to attend a Maria’s Message meetings.


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