Buckeye Career Center Graphic Arts senior Miranda Vega and Indian Valley Junior Hannah Katicich were selected as the winners of this year's Safe Communities/State Farm Insurance Billboard Contest. Miranda's design (top) will be displayed along East High Avenue in New Philadelphia, and Hannah's (bottom) along State Route 250 near Midvale. 

Tuscarawas County, Ohio - Two local high school students are helping warn people about the dangers of distracted driving.

Tuscarawas County Safe Communities and State Farm insurance again challenged area high schoolers to create billboards with an important driving safety message for the chance to have their design displayed in larger-than-life fashion alongside a Tuscarawas County roadway. 

Coordinator Kelly Snyder says 23 students from five different school districts accepted that challenge and submitted designs on this year’s topic of distracted driving. 

“We just felt it was a very important topic to get the students to think about, and hopefully be designing the billboards and seeing the billboards, it will raise awareness about the dangers of distracted driving,” she says.

Snyder says a panel of judges from the coalition rated the entries on creativity, originality, and how well the message was communicated. They ultimately selected the designs submitted by Buckeye Career Center Graphic Arts senior Miranda Vega and Indian Valley junior Hannah Katicich for billboard honors, but Snyder says it was not an easy decision.  

“All the entries were wonderful. We have some very talented students here in Tuscarawas County, so it was very hard to choose but we finally narrowed it down to two, and I thought they did a great job of displaying what the message was, and it was easy to read and look at and know exactly what they were trying to say,” she says.

Both billboards will be on display for a period of two months, Miranda’s along East High Avenue, and Hannah’s along Route 250 near Midvale. Miranda says she hopes to inspire to not be ‘that guy’ or girl who uses their phone while behind the wheel. 

“Well, we really hear about people like getting hurt in car accidents all the time, and being on your phone and texting and driving is a big problem when you’re driving on the road, so it's just important like if people see that billboard, maybe you'll put your phone down,” she says. 

Hannah says her design features a similar message.

“The design of the poster is basically someone sitting in a car, and they have their phone out, and it has like a text from their mom that’s like, ‘Hey, drive safe. Don’t be on your phone,’ but they’re on their phone, and in the bottom right-hand corner it says your future is bright, don’t let your phone be, meaning that you shouldn’t have your phone out to begin with,” she explains.

New Philadelphia State Highway Patrol Post commander Lt. Mark Glennon was among the judges who helped pick the contest winners. He says he hopes the billboards will inspire drivers of all ages to keep their attention on the road. 

“A lot of the other kids will take something a little bit more to heart when it comes from a peer or someone that they know rather than just law enforcement going out and trying to reinforce the message and talking to people,” he says. “Plus, with the billboard, it’ll get out there to more people, and it’s a bigger message.”   

In addition to having their designs made into billboards, each student was awarded a check for $250 courtesy of State Farm, with another $250 going to their respective schools. The two students say they plan to put their money into a college fund. Miranda wants to continue her graphic arts studies at the University of Akron, and Hannah plans to major in pre-med at OSU. 

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