OSU Coordinator for Student Life Ally Himes tests out the driving simulator. Credit: Aubrey Cornwell

OSU Coordinator for Student Life Ally Himes tests out the driving simulator. Credit: Aubrey Cornwell

The Ohio State University Police Department received a driving simulator on Oct. 20 on behalf of the Maria Tiberi Foundation. The simulator is meant to raise awareness of distracted driving.

Maria Tiberi was a senior at OSU in Autumn 2013 when she died in a car accident attributed to distracted driving. The foundation was created by Maria’s parents, Dom and Terri Tiberi, in her name to spread the word about the negative effects of distracted driving.

“We’ve always had a special place in our hearts for Ohio State, so when this opportunity came with our foundation, we identified a need and that’s the reason we put one at Ohio State,” said Dom Tiberi, WBNS-10TV sports anchor.

According to Dom Tiberi, the organization has purchased 23 simulators, which have gone to various police departments and school districts in Ohio, each costing approximately $14,000. The simulator given to OSUPD was fully funded by donations from OSU Football Coach Urban Meyer, his wife, Shelley, and former OSU Football Coach Earle Bruce.

The driving simulator is currently being held in the Ohio Union in the Public Safety Office and will be used to educate OSU students and the campus community on the importance of avoiding distracted driving.

The device consists of a seat, steering wheel and a gas and brake pedal — just as a car does — with a computer monitor that acts as the windshield. The simulator has three driving functions: practice, distracted and intoxicated.

The distracted function requires the driver to multitask by following directions, making phone calls and sending text messages while behind the wheel.

The drunk-driving function of the simulator shows drivers how difficult it is to be in control of a car while intoxicated and all of the legal implications that come with driving under the influence that have lifelong effects.

“If you walk or drive around campus, you’ll notice a lot of people with their heads down, on their cell phones and walking out in front of cars. Think about when they’re behind the wheel of a car — 5,000 pounds of steel — and they’re doing the same thing,” University Police Acting Chief Craig Stone said.

Stone said he hopes to coordinate an event that gets students, donors and the Tiberi family together to debut the driving simulator. After that, the simulator will be available for the campus community to learn from and use. Though a permanent location has not yet been chosen, Stone said it will likely continue to be stored in the Union.

“We’re hoping to save a life and spread the message of the Maria Tiberi Foundation,” Stone said. “She was a Buckeye, so we’re going to spread the word, too.”

Ally Himes, the coordinator for student organizations, tested out the driving simulator and said she found it challenging to stay focused on the road with all of the distractions.

“It’s really difficult to pay attention, specifically to your phone, while you’re driving,” she said. “I know that it slows your reaction time a lot, and I think that (the simulator) really helped me to see that.”

Dom Tiberi said the Maria Tiberi Foundation is about Maria and the all of the other victims that have lost their lives on Ohio’s highways.

“We want people to realize through these simulators what bad can happen and learn it in a safe environment. Don’t learn it on the highway,” he said. “We want to change habits.”