Upper Arlington Rotary Club member Yvonne Simon Perotti heard Maria's Message loud and clear.

Upper Arlington Rotary Club member Yvonne Simon Perotti heard Maria's Message loud and clear.

Then she appealed to her organization's leadership to purchase a driving simulator that would show Upper Arlington High School students just how easy it is to lose sight of the road and control of a vehicle while texting or otherwise distracted.

Last month, the simulator was set up in the school's media center and is being integrated into the health curriculum so it can be used by the school's approximately 1,800 students and 200 faculty members.

As he's related to many central Ohio high school and community groups, WBNS 10TV sports anchor Dom Tiberi spoke to the Upper Arlington Rotary Club last year about losing his 21-year-old daughter, Maria, to a 2013 traffic accident. Tiberi has since taken Maria's Message to anyone willing to listen to his views on the dangers of distracted driving.

"I was just so touched by it," Perotti said. "I went to our president and said I wanted to follow through with this.

"Our board thought this was an excellent idea, but they also thought the Upper Arlington Education Foundation would want to be a part of it."

In all, the Rotary Club, the UA Education Foundation, the Maria Tiberi Foundation and UAHS Principal Andrew Theado's office budget were tapped to cover the $14,750 needed to purchase a driving simulator and pay to have it shipped to the high school.

In addition to distracted driving, the simulator also has functions that show what it can be like to drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and provides video testimony from doctors, law enforcement officials and judges about how dangerous distracted and impaired driving can be.

"It was really surprising how difficult it was with all the distractions," UAHS senior Nick Trifelos said after agreeing to demonstrate the simulator Friday, Jan. 22. "I was already trying to phase out (texting while driving), but this makes me think about how other people drive and to be more aware."

Theado said the simulator is supposed to elicit just those reactions, while also instilling lifelong, life-saving lessons.

"I think ultimately, with our reliance on technology, distracted driving is going to continue to be a problem," he said. "We want to get out in front of it. We're just very fortunate to have this, and hopefully, it does what it's supposed to do."

UA Education Foundation Director Joanie Dugger said the simulator project is an example of important work that can be accomplished when people and organizations partner for the betterment of the community.

UA Education Foundation President and UAHS wrestling coach Matt Stout called the project a vital public safety tool.

"We will never truly know its impact, but we feel strongly about doing everything we can to keep our children and community members safe," Stout said.

Throughout Ohio, law enforcement officers can stop motorists they believe are impaired, but laws vary by community about whether texting while driving as a secondary or primary offense. In areas where it is a secondary offense, motorists can only be cited if they are observed texting while driving and have committed another offense that allows them to be pulled over.

In Upper Arlington, texting while driving is a primary offense, meaning motorists can be stopped if they are seen texting while driving.

Perotti said she hopes the simulator will teach UAHS students they need to remain focused on driving whenever they're behind the wheel.

"It affects communities, it affects families," Perotti said. "This simulator is well worth it if it saves one student at the high school."