Teams of students from several local high schools are depending on public support for their artistic creations in a contest held by the state Department of Transportation (PennDOT) to promote winter driving safety.

Online voting for the “Paint the Plow” contest opens Monday and will continue throughout the week.

Students were asked to customize a PennDOT snow plow blade with the message, “Don’t Rush in Ice and Slush.” The theme was chosen to draw attention to the need for motorists to give themselves ample time for travel during wintry weather in order to arrive safely to their destination.

Now the public is invited to rate their favorite snow plows decorated and emblazoned by students from eight schools in PennDOT’s District 12, which includes Fayette, Greene, Washington and Westmoreland counties.

Local schools include the Connellsville Area Career and Technical Center and Laurel Highlands High School in Fayette County, West Greene High School in Greene County, Beth-Center Senior High School in Washington County and Yough Senior High School in Westmoreland County.

Art teacher Mike DeFazio said his students at Laurel Highlands have participated in the contest for three years.

“It has been a great opportunity for our students to be able to create designs for the plows, as well as to see their artwork being used around town in the winter,” said DeFazio.

“It dovetails well with our district’s efforts to teach students about safe driving and making good choices in life. It also gives our students the chance to show some school pride by incorporating ‘Mustang’ imagery into their designs,” he added.

Karl Butchko, auto collision repair instructor at the Connellsville CTC, said five students from his program designed and painted their snow plow over four weeks this fall with help from a couple teachers at the school.

The project allowed the students practice at sanding, painting and designing as they were able to show off their creativity, said Butchko, including the use of free-hand art.

“The students were very excited about doing the contest,” he said. “They come up with the design for the plow themselves.”

Votes can be cast on the PennDOT website at www.penndot.gov/District12 by clicking on the “Paint the Plow” icon. The plow that receives the most votes by Nov. 24 will be deemed the “Fan Favorite.”

The blades are also eligible for the “Judges’ Pick” honor that will be determined by PennDOT personnel.

The painted plows will be mounted to plow trucks and used to maintain area roadways during the upcoming winter season.

PennDOT’s “Paint the Plow” Program began during the 2015-2016 winter season when it was first offered in Cambria County. The program has expanded throughout the state and is now offered in most areas. This marks the third year it has been offered to students in District 12.

The statewide outreach is aimed at promoting winter driving safety and fostering appreciation for high school art programs and student creativity.

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