Monday, July 15, 2024

Distracted driving license plate design could earn Jamestown High junior $1K

Jamestown High School junior Abigail Polansky has been named one of the state's eight finalists in a DMV license plate design competition. Here, Polansky poses for a photo with her design, Instructional Technology Research Teacher Amanda Morris (left) and art teacher Missy Furr. (Sarah Fearing/WYDaily)
Jamestown High School junior Abigail Polansky has been named one of the state’s eight finalists in a DMV license plate design competition. Here, Polansky poses for a photo with her design, instructional technology research teacher Amanda Morris (left) and art teacher Missy Furr. (Sarah Fearing/WYDaily)

Jamestown High School junior Abigail Polansky wakes up at 4 a.m. most days of the week.

A swim team member, Polansky’s days are packed, from class to practice to life at home – so it’s not unusual for the 17-year-old to feel tired when she hops in her Hyundai at the end of the day.

But Polansky, who has had her license since last August, knows her limits when it comes to driving. From distractions to drowsiness, Polansky knows when to pull over.

And she’s putting that knowledge to good use.

In late January, Polansky was named one of eight statewide finalists in the “Take Action Against Distraction” license plate design contest held by the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles. The Hampton Roads district where Polansky’s design was chosen was judged by five locals, including a William & Mary football coach, a Colonial Williamsburg graphic designer, and a sheriff’s office captain.

Voting opens for the final contest round on Feb. 20 and runs through March 20. The statewide winner will be announced in April and will receive a $1,000 prize.

Polansky’s design shows a human head with a cell phone, several Z’s, a burger and drink inside where the brain would be. At the bottom, the license plate reads “One distraction can delay your reaction.”

“Teens are very aware about not being on our phones while driving, because it’s talked about a lot,” Polansky said. “But it’s more than just a phone. It can be eating, or even clipping your toenails – which we learned some people apparently do.”

A school assignment

Polansky only wanted to receive an A on her license plate design, so making it to the DMV contest’s final round was both a shock and pleasant surprise for her.

Polansky entered her design into the contest in mid-December as part of a school assignment in art class. Instructional technology research teacher Amanda Morris found the contest listed online in October, and suggested art teacher Missy Furr assign it to her art class.

Jamestown High School junior Abigail Polansky has been named one of the state's eight finalists in a DMV license plate design competition. (Sarah Fearing/WYDaily)
Jamestown High School junior Abigail Polansky has been named one of the state’s eight finalists in a DMV license plate design competition. (Sarah Fearing/WYDaily)

“The kids have to do research and find statistics and other things about distracted driving,” Morris said. “And one of the biggest takeaways was that distracted driving means more than just texting.”

After doing research and writing an essay about distracted driving, students designed their own license plate design about the issue.

“It was a challenge because the design could only be so big, and it limited the artistic ability,” Furr said. “It couldn’t have gradations or values because it’s a license plate.”

The DMV also set guidelines for the number of colors the plate could include, Furr added.

Polansky’s design was inspired by her AP psychology class.

“The idea came to me and I thought, ‘This is what it’s like in our heads when we’re distracted,’” Polansky said.

Polansky streamlined her design after a sophomore English class critiqued it.

“That English class is also working on an essay about distracted driving, so it fit in well,” Morris said.

Making a difference

Although Polansky makes sure she keeps distractions out of her car, she has been directly affected by other drivers’ distracted driving.

On Monday, a person knocked over her family’s mailbox then drove into the ditch because they weren’t paying attention, she said. It was the fourth time someone hit her mailbox while driving.

As a reminder to herself and other Virginia drivers, Polansky said she will likely get a license plate with her design if she wins the contest.

Both Morris and Furr also said they’ll get Polansky’s license plate, and plan to convince their friends and family to as well.

“I’ve been telling everyone that they need to get Abigail’s license plate if she wins,” Furr said. “I know I definitely am.”

Directions on how to vote will be listed on the DMV’s distracted driving contest webpage.

Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing is the Assistant Editor at WYDaily. Sarah was born in the state of Maine, grew up along the coast, and attended college at the University of Maine at Orono. Sarah left Maine in October 2015 when she was offered a job at a newspaper in West Point, Va. Courts, crime, public safety and civil rights are among Sarah’s favorite topics to cover. She currently covers those topics in Williamsburg, James City County and York County. Sarah has been recognized by other news organizations, state agencies and civic groups for her coverage of a failing fire-rescue system, an aging agriculture industry and lack of oversight in horse rescue groups. In her free time, Sarah enjoys lazing around with her two cats, Salazar and Ruth, drinking copious amounts of coffee and driving places in her white truck.

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