You might not think you want to watch Werner Herzogs new film. But you cannot turn away after the opening line from a teenage girl on a Milwaukee street:
I had my brother in my hand, and all of a sudden my hand was empty.
From One Second to the Next is a 35-minute documentary the German filmmaker produced for AT&Ts It Can Wait campaign about the lethal hazards of texting while driving.
Herzog examines four crashes where people were killed or disabled by texting drivers. Police, drivers and victims and their parents, siblings and children give detailed testimony that is understated but unflinching.
Its a great improvement over the crude drivers-ed films from earlier decades, where grim troopers stacked beer bottles on the bloody fenders of wrecked cars. It will doubtless find similar use in schools across the country with, you can only hope, better results.
You may have seen the Milwaukee girls brother, Xzavier, and their mother in a riveting TV spot for the It Can Wait campaign. The boy is paralyzed from the diaphragm down, his mother says. The driver who struck him ran a stop sign while texting, Im on my way.
In Indiana, we meet a haunted young man who killed children when he rear-ended an Amish familys buggy. After the crash, he says, the only thing I saw moving was the horse.
He reads a generous letter from the victims father, who goes beyond forgiveness to reassure him: Keep looking up. God is always there.
There is forgiveness, also, from a young Utah woman who embraces the man responsible for her fathers death.
Not so for the brother and sister of Debbie, a Vermont woman. She lost mental and physical vigor after she was struck one night while walking her chocolate Labrador, Charlie. Dying on the roadside, Charlie wagged his tail as Debbie was loaded into the ambulance.
The teen driver was sentenced to 30 days of community service, and Debbie received a $50,000 insurance payment toward medical costs that exceeded $1 million. Her sister cannot contain her bitterness.
Debbie, with a vacant gaze, reveals no emotions of her own. But she puts an arm around her tearful sister and pats her shoulder and says in a flat whisper, There there. Its all right.
Put my phone away
The mesmerizing powers of mobile phones are well known by now. North Carolina is one of 41 states where texting (including reading email) is banned for all drivers. Herzogs film should make you look at your phone, the next time youre driving, with revulsion.
Put my phone away, and I save those two mens lives, says Reggie, the Utah driver. When I speak to others, I share the same message. I say, Now its that easy for you, going forward, to save somebodys life. You put the phone away when you drive, and youre safer behind the wheel, and everybodys safer on the road around you.
I want everybody to look at me and look and what I did and what I caused and say, I dont want to be that guy.
Make contact: 919-829-4527 or email@example.com. On the Web at twitter.com/Road_Worrier and blogs.newsobserver.com/crosstown/. Please include address and daytime phone.