From left, Christina Greve, Ritika Jain, and Jenny Felter, all Marshall High students, present their proposal to the judges on Dec. 9.

High school students from Fairfax County, Va., are using social media and other methods to help discourage their peers from driving while distracted by cell phones.

A team of three students from George C. Marshall High School were named winners of the “Orange Cones. No Phones.” High School Safety Challenge on Dec. 9. The contest, sponsored by Transurban-Fluor, asked Fairfax County high school students to develop a marketing plan that would discourage young drivers from texting while behind the wheel.

Transurban-Fluor is currently working on the largest highway construction project in the country, adding high-occupancy toll lanes on the Capital Beltway.

“Because we have so much construction going on and safety is such a top priority to us and to all of our project partners, we launched a safety campaign aimed to reduce distracted driving specifically within our work zones,” said Michelle Holland, public affairs manager for the Capital Beltway HOT Lanes Project with Transurban.

“When we first launched the campaign, there was an increase in traffic incidence on the Capital Beltway in Virginia, so we wanted to step up and do our part,” Holland said. Holland said Transurban-Fluor decided to target high schools in Fairfax County because students there were directly impacted by the construction.

“We had a special program targeted to young student drivers, drivers that are just getting their license or have only been driving for a short while, and that’s where we really came up with the concept of having a marketing competition and reaching out to the students to see if they could come up with campaigns and programs that would get our message out to their peers,” Holland said.

The winning team, composed of George Marshall students Ritika Jain, Christine Greve, and Jenny Felter, stood out from other competitors because of their use of social media to target their peers.

“We thought that social media would have a great impact on teenagers because they use Facebook and Twitter and all of those social networking sites every day, and so advertising on those websites would get the word out about the promotion plan and campaign,” said Jain.

The three students conducted a survey to better understand their target market before choosing a course of action. After processing their results, they proposed modifying Transurban-Fluor’s Facebook and Twitter pages so they would be more appealing to students.