Checking your cell phone, primping and other distractions that take your focus off the road can have dire consequences. It's as concept three Bruton High students detailed in their winning video essay, "Fall Festival."
In the video essay, two teens get in an sport-utility vehicle and begin driving. As the driver is looking at her phone, the vehicle crashes, injuring a passenger and a woman walking her dog.
The video won the students, Damaris Forkey, Macy Marotta and Olivia Garcia, a $3,500 cash prize for them and their York County school in the third annual "Distracted Driving" campaign.
Cox Communications, Drive Smart Virginia, GEICO and Hall Automotive sponsored the video essay contest for high school teens, ages 14-19. Twenty students or student groups in the Hampton Roads area created two-minute videos for the contest, according to organizers.
"These students creatively shared a very important message and are setting an example of safe driving for their peers," said Matt Mitchell, GEICO assistant vice president of claims. "In the end, they've made an impact on keeping our streets safer for drivers and pedestrians and for that we can all be proud."
The student contest videos, all available on YouTube, illustrated the dangers associated with texting while driving, talking on the phone, talking to their passengers, applying make-up, eating and other things that can distract drivers.
A panel of judges narrowed the entries down to four semi-finalists, then posted the videos online for votes. During the three-week voting period, 44,861 votes were cast, organizers said.
The video created by Forkey, Marotta and Garcia won after receiving the largest number of online votes.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that drivers under 20 years old are the most distracted: 71% of teens and young people say they have composed/sent text messages while driving and 78% say they have read messages while driving, according to the federal agency's website.
"A huge round of applause to all the students who participated in the No 2 Distracted Driving video essay contest this year," said Jean Mahon, Hall Automotive's Marketing Director in a news release. "We couldn't be more proud of the response to our call for entries; if this endeavor prevents just one crash from happening due to distracted driving, we've made a difference.
To watch the winning video, visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=J_1q-0lo3BM.
Canty can be reached at (757) 345-2341.