Students at Marysville High School got a little extra education this week -- not in chemistry or calculus but about staying safe behind the wheel.
Two separate programs, aimed at highlighting the importance of seat belts and the dangers of distracted driving, were held.
On Wednesday, May 21, WBNS-10TV sports anchor Dom Tiberi shared "Maria's Message" with the junior class.
Maria's Message is a campaign to bring awareness to the issue of distracted driving. It is named for Tiberi's 21-year-old daughter, Maria, who was killed in an automobile accident Sept. 17, 2013.
Maria had left her Dublin home around 10 p.m. and was driving to see her sister in Columbus.
Tiberi said they'll never know for sure what happened, but somehow she became distracted and her car, traveling at 53 mph, hit the back of a stopped semi-trailer on Interstate 270 in Hilliard.
Police ruled out mechanical issues and found no evidence she was using her cellphone.
Marysville police Chief Floyd Golden said the message Tiberi shares is heartbreaking.
Tiberi is making the rounds at central Ohio high schools to turn his personal loss into education for others.
Even though Maria was an adult, he still waited up for her. That night, he heard a car door shut after 2 a.m. and felt relief that she was home safe. When he looked outside and saw seven police officers, he knew something was wrong.
His story captured the attention of the entire junior class.
"There was not a sound in the auditorium, even though it was filled with all those students," Golden said. "I sincerely hope that the students remember what they heard and pay full-time attention to their driving."
"I thought it was very touching, especially because it hit home to hear someone that it touched firsthand. It was really inspiring," said junior Gabriella Lopez. "I think a lot of my classmates agreed with his speech."
Golden said the issue of texting and driving gets a lot of attention, but Tiberi pointed out that eating, putting on makeup, adjusting the radio and similar activities are also dangerous.
Part of Tiberi's presentation asks students to sign a pledge to keep their hands on the wheel, their eyes on the road and their mind on driving.
"Sheriff Jamie Patton and I both repeated the pledge and signed our pledge card," Golden said.
Lopez said she signed the pledge, as did her classmates.
She said she was struck when Tiberi asked students, "Why would you do that to your parents?"
"Just to see how hurt he was, I would never want to put my parents in that position -- to answer the door at 2 a.m. to say I've been killed," she said. "I'm definitely going to be more alert."
The day before Tiberi's visit, law enforcement officials conducted a seat-belt check as students arrived at the high school.
Officers checked 651 drivers and passengers Tuesday morning and found 93.7 percent were buckled up.
The check was part of the 2014 national "Click It or Ticket" campaign, which runs from May 19 to June 1.
Statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show that in 2012 alone, seat belts saved an estimated 12,174 lives nationwide.
According to information from the Union County Health Department, 62 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds killed in passenger vehicle crashes were not wearing seat belts.
Union County Safe and Sound Coalition Coordinator Shawnna Sue Jordan said the check was held to raise awareness of seat-belt use. The coalition is an initiative of local government and business entities.
"We know that young adults are a high-risk group for traffic crashes and traffic fatalities, so we wanted to come out and reward good behavior for drivers and passengers that were buckled up," Jordan said.
"And for those that weren't buckled, they received information with the amounts of fines that they would have received if they were to be cited."
The reward for those buckled included Smarties candies or a free Burger King Icee.