Maria Tiberi (left), a 21-year-old OSU student in communication, with her father, Dom Tiberi. Maria Tiberi died after a Sept. 17, 2013 car accident. Credit: Courtesy of 10TV

Maria Tiberi (left), a 21-year-old OSU student in communication, with her father, Dom Tiberi. Maria Tiberi died after a Sept. 17, 2013 car accident.
Credit: Courtesy of 10TV

In memory of its namesake, Maria’s Miles, a three-mile walk/run event, seeks to raise awareness and funds for distracted driving prevention.

Maria Tiberi was a fourth-year in graphics design at Ohio State when she died following a car accident in 2013. Dom Tiberi, a sports anchor for WBNS-10TV in Columbus and Maria Tiberi’s father, said he believes distracted driving was the cause of the crash.

“You know, I’ve said I never wanted Maria to be a statistic and I never want any other kid to be a statistic,” Dom Tiberi said. “Although I don’t understand it and my wife doesn’t understand it, we feel it’s now our mission to try to change habits and try to keep other families from going through this nightmare.”

As a result, he established the Maria Tiberi Foundation and is spreading the word to students through Maria’s Message — a foundation created to raise awareness about distracted driving.

According to the U.S. government’s website for distracted driving, 27 percent of distracted drivers in fatal car crashes are in their 20s, and 10 percent of drivers under 20 years old who were involved in fatal crashes were reported as being distracted.

Distracted driving isn’t just texting while operating a motor vehicle — it can range from reading the newspaper to putting on makeup, anything that distracts you from the road, Dom Tiberi said.

Maria’s Miles will benefit the Maria Tiberi Foundation, which plans to launch a campaign that will teach defensive driving techniques as well as provide scholarship money to a student with similar career interests as Maria, according to the foundation’s website.

Dom Tiberi came to the Ohio Union on Oct. 7 to spread Maria’s Message to students from across the state. It was part of an Ohio High School Athletic Association Student Leadership Conference, and about 1,500 students were in attendance.

Dom Tiberi said he hopes Maria’s message won’t have to exist much longer.

“The ultimate goal is to put an end to distracted driving,” he said. “My main plan is that (Maria’s Message) isn’t needed anymore.”

Maria’s Miles is produced by M3S Sports, a sports and event production company, and is set to coincide with the Columbus Italian Festival on Saturday in Italian Village.

“We will have over 1,000 participants, which for a first-year race like this, is a great number,” said David Babner, race director for M3S Sports.

All of the proceeds from the race will go to the Maria Tiberi Foundation, Babner said. However, he said he will have a better understanding of how much the race earns after the event.

It currently costs $40 to register.

The funds will be used to purchase drunk driving simulators and to reach more high schools through guest speakers, Babner said.

A spokesman for M3S Sports said the company has been supportive of the foundation since the start.

“It was a very unanimous decision for (M3S Sports) to get behind Dom and get behind the cause and create an event that can raise awareness and funds for the fight against distracted driving,” said Brent LaLonde, spokesman for M3S Sports. “And if it’s preventing one more family from going what Dom went through, then we’ve accomplished our mission.”

Dom Tiberi said he wanted the world to know some things about his daughter, even though she’s gone.

“Maria loved life and she was a happy kid. The world was a better place with her in it, but for whatever reason, the good Lord had another plan,” he said.