Thursday, January 20, 2022

DMV targets distracted driving with a contest and $1,000 prize

Texting while driving has been a primary offense in Virginia since July 1. (Nicole Trifone/WYDaily)
Texting is banned for all drivers. In Virginia, it is considered a primary offense, which means police can pull you over if they suspect you of texting while driving. (Nicole Trifone/WYDaily)

Virginia high schoolers with a flair for design can save lives and win $1,000 at the same time.

The Department of Motor Vehicles is sponsoring a contest, open to Virginians in grades 9-12, for the best license-plate design about distraction-free driving, according to a news release. The contest joins other ongoing efforts to reduce distracted driving by teenagers.

The contest opened in November. The deadline for submissions is Friday.

In 2016, 13 Virginians were killed and 800 were injured as a result of distracted driving by teenagers, according to the DMV’s website. 

The DMV’s initiative comes in the wake of House Bill 1763, according to the release.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Del. Thomas “Tag” Greason pushed for the 2017 measure, which authorizes the DMV to issue license plates promoting highway safety. The first in the series raises awareness of distracted driving.

Designs can be submitted online. A panel of judges will choose eight finalists who will go on to a statewide public vote this spring.

Causes of distracted driving

Teenagers are at the highest risk of driving while distracted, according to the DMV.

There are various reasons for this, but in recent years cellphone use has caused a spike in distracted-related accidents, the DMV said.

Studies have shown that teenagers, as an age group, are the most likely to text while driving and hold multiple forms of communication from behind the wheel, according to the DMV.

But texting isn’t the only form of distraction.

Teenagers also use their phones for GPS, social media and controlling music.

In recent years, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has seen a rise in distracted driving related specifically to social media use. Certain platforms such as Snapchat or Waze have created notifications on their apps to remind users not to use them while driving but cell phones offer an entire world of distraction.

There are three categories that distraction triggers fall into: splitting attention, distracting visual focus and creating less physical control over steering. Cellphones hit all three of these categories, according to the DMV.

Submission guidelines

The DMV provides a license plate template on its website. The font, size, color and placement of “VIRGINIA” cannot be altered.

Designs must be created using computer programs such as Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator. Final designs must be submitted as a .jpeg or .pdf.

Simple designs are encouraged, so they can be read easily from a distance, the website said.

Participants need to make sure a design isn’t copyrighted or trademarked.

Submissions must also explain — in 100 words or fewer — how the design depicts or encourages distraction-free driving.

More information can be found online.

Judges will evaluate the written submissions and the designs, according to the DMV’s website.

They will also weigh whether submissions communicate a message and show originality, quality and suitability, according to the DMV.

For more information on the contest, including how to enter, go to

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