May 3, 2023

‘Heads Up, Phones Down’ Teen Video Contest Winners Honored

High school students across Montgomery County have a message for their peers: “Put those phones away when driving or walking.” That theme was emphasized as the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) announced the winners of its 2023 “Heads Up, Phones Down” video contest.

Thomas Phillips of Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda was the grand prize individual winner. Anna Li and Isabel Wu of Poolesville High School took the grand prize in the team category.

The contest asked students to produce videos encouraging peers to not allow cell phones to distract them while driving and walking. The contest received 185 video entries.

“Due to texting and driving, 11 teenagers die per day in our country,” said County Executive Marc Elrich. “We want to avoid these tragedies in Montgomery County and these peer-to-peer messaging contests and campaigns are very effective at drawing attention and awareness to this dangerous and deadly behavior. I am really happy to see the level of participation we received; 185 video entries is very impressive.”

The contest was open to Montgomery public and private high school students. Entries were submitted either individually or as a group of up to four in English or Spanish.

A team from the MCDOT Safe Routes to School office visited the schools of the grand prize winners on April 21 to surprise the creators of the top entries with prizes, balloons and fanfare.

A grand prize and first- and second-runner-up prizes were awarded in the group and individual categories. Winning group submissions split the grand prize with gift cards for each member. Individual submission winners qualified for prizes including an Apple MacBook Pro, an Apple Watch or a tripod.

The contest winners, with links to their winning videos:

Individual Winners
Group Winners
  • Grand Prize Winners: Anna Li, Isabel Wu, Poolesville High School. Trapped.
  • First Runner Up Winners: Vesper Ruhlen, Alex Hazoume, Walter Johnson High School. Stay Aware.
  • Second Runner Up Winners: Tatiana Zeman, Emilia Hicks, Richard Montgomery High School. Your phone is replaceable. You're not.
“Distracted driving is a significant risk factor in fatal car crashes, especially among teenage drivers,” said MCDOT Director Chris Conklin. “Cell phone use while driving poses an extreme risk to drivers, pedestrians and cyclists. We hope these videos get the message out: ‘When you are behind the wheel, you are responsible for the safety of everyone on the road.’”

View the winning videos and photos of the winners on the Heads Up, Phones Down contest website.