MCDOT holds Creative Contest, raises awareness about distracted driving and walking


Graphic by Meimei Greenstein.

By Eva Liles

The Montgomery County Department of Transportation’s creative contest is open to submissions from MCPS students until Mar. 3. The department started the contest to inform the community of the dangers of walking and driving while distracted.

The Montgomery County Safe Routes to Schools Don’t Be Distracted Creative Contest asks students to submit an art piece or 30-60 second public service announcement video encouraging their peers to avoid distracted walking and driving. MCDOT’s Division of Traffic Engineering and Operations will select one winner to receive $500 in college tuition money or a $100 Chick-fil-A or Chipotle gift card. The first 20 entries that meet the requirements will each be awarded with one free movie ticket.

Last year, Kirsten Savary from James Hubert Blake High School and Sebastian Kraft from Montgomery Blair High School won the contest.

“The Creative Contest allows MCDOT to see how students view the issue of distraction as a pedestrian or as a young driver,” MCDOT Safe Routes to School coordinator Nadji Kirby said. “The hope is that young people will continue to come up with fantastic ideas to creatively persuade their peers to take pedestrian safety seriously.”

Some students have personal experiences with distracted driving that have taught them the importance of staying attentive on roadways.

Last month, junior Zachary Merenstein was rear-ended by a woman whose eyes weren’t focused on the road.

“I wasn’t injured, but it was still a scary experience and a big pain because my car wasn’t driveable,” Merenstein said. “She only needed to take her eyes off the road to cause a crash.”

A 2015 report by the National Highway Traffic Safeway Administration wrote that ten percent of fatal crashes, 15 percent of injury crashes and 14 percent of all police-reported motor vehicle traffic crashes were affected by distractions.

Whether senior Lucas Polack is driving or just getting a ride, he often observes people driving distracted.

“I’ve definitely witnessed distracted driving. In fact, sometimes the people who do it are my family members,” Polack said.

Kirby said she believes the Creative Contest’s video and art submissions will encourage students to lead safer lives.

“When you’re distracted while walking or driving, you’re putting yourself and those around you in danger,” Kirby said. “This is our second year doing the contest, and we hope to continue holding it every year. We have received some really great entries and believe that they can be used to continue to educate students about the dangers of distractions.”