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News | Aug. 3, 2016

Following tragedy, local TV personality shares message

By Michael Molinaro DLA Land and Maritime Public Affairs

“I have great memories of Maria. There’s a problem with memories. You can’t hug a memory, you can’t hold a memory, and you can’t call a memory on the phone.

“It’s a pain that never dulls.”

That was just part of the powerful message delivered by Dom Tiberi when he spent an hour with associates from Defense Supply Center Columbus inside the Building 20 auditorium July 21.

Tiberi, the local Columbus Channel 10 sports anchor, shared the story of his own 21-year-old daughter, who was killed on Sept. 17, 2013, in an accident that was likely the result of distracted driving. The vehicle driven by Maria Tiberi slammed into the back of a stopped tractor-trailer five minutes after she left home, killing her.

“I have a job, and that’s with 10TV doing the sports,” Tiberi said. “But I have a mission, and my mission is trying to put an end to what is truly an epidemic in our country.

“Distracted driving is so many different things. It’s anything that takes your hands off the wheel, eyes of the road and mind off your driving. We’re all guilty of it and we all need to set a better example because our kids are watching.”

Tiberi launched “Maria’s Message”—a campaign to remind people on the dangers of distracted driving. He speaks to high school and college students, telling Maria’s story, and he also started Maria’s Foundation, which buys distracted driving simulators for high schools.

Statistically, the leading cause of death for ages 5-24 is from motor vehicle crashes. For all age groups, heart disease is the leading killer followed by cancer and auto accidents.

"Which one of these is preventable?" asked Tiberi of those in attendance.

An emotional Tiberi challenged the DSCC community to be leaders and not let people drive distracted. Tiberi has spent his time to bring "Maria's Message" to 65 high schools. He said he has started talking to older audiences like this one because parents and others need to set a better example.

“What can we do? We have to hammer our kids. We can’t write our way out of this nightmare with tickets. We have to do it through education. We have to do it by setting a better example.

“I’m in a club no parent wants to join. It’s like groundhog day and I wake up every day and say ‘Is this real?’

“The worst part of the whole thing was leaving her at the hospital, and I don’t want any more kids being left at the hospital. The reason I do this is because I couldn’t bring her home.”

Three times a year his foundation provides free defensive driving classes for 100 kids in Columbus. He said they partner with a school that has some of the finest driving instructors in the county, who teach the CIA and FBI. He has testified before state legislatures on ways to enact stricter distracted driving laws and works tirelessly to enhance the education provided in schools, including the simulators.

"This is a heavy subject, but this is my mission. As parents we always want to be a safety net. We want to be there to give our kids a second chance. But with death, there are no do-overs.”