Blair Students’ Powerful Video Takes Grand Prize in MCDOT’s ‘Heads Up, Phones Down’ Contest

Three Montgomery Blair High School students emerged as group winners in the Montgomery County Department of Transportation’s annual ‘Heads Up, Phones Down‘ video contest.

This year, high schoolers across the county conveyed a powerful message to their peers: “Keep those phones away while driving or walking.”

Blair students Erol Kalayoglu, Zachary Carter, and Ian Ha won the grand prize in the group category for their video ‘Silence Your Phone, Not a Heartbeat’ (video below). Anjolaoluwa Adeleke from Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda won the grand prize for individual submissions.

Jason Konecnik from Northwood High School won the second runner-up prize in the individual category for his project ‘Don’t Distract Your Driver.’

The contest challenged students to create videos encouraging their peers to avoid cell phone distractions while driving or walking, garnering an impressive 200 video entries.

“Sometimes it works better to hear it from a peer — that’s why the “heads up phones down” peer messaging contest can help us keep our kids safe and avoid these unnecessary accidents,” County Executive Marc Elrich said in a press release. “Congratulations to the winners, and many thanks to the 200 who submitted entries — we really appreciate it.”

Open to public and private high school students in Montgomery County, entries can be submitted in English or Spanish, individually or in groups of up to four.

The MCDOT Pedestrian Safety team visited the schools of the grand prize winners to surprise the top entry creators with prizes, balloons, and fanfare. Prizes included a grand prize, first runner-up, and second runner-up in group and individual categories. Winning groups split cash prizes of $800 for the grand prize, $400 for the first runner-up, and $200 for the second runner-up, with gift cards for each member.

Individual winners received prizes like an Apple MacBook Pro, an Apple Watch, or a tripod.

“In Maryland, more than 1,700 teens aged 15-19 are injured and 16 are killed annually from car crashes,” said MCDOT Director Chris Conklin. “Distracted driving is a key factor in many of these collisions. It’s not only risky behavior, but it can also be deadly. These videos help to get the message out to our teens and remind them of the need for attentiveness behind the wheel.”

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