Friday, May 9, 2014

From One Second to the Next and the Unknown Future: Four Tragedies from Texting and Driving

By Drew Martin
Last week I watched the Werner Herzog documentary From One Second to the Next. In this short film Herzog is a silent narrator, and fixes a patient lens on the victims and culprits of life-changing- and life-ending-accidents that resulted from young men and women who texted while driving.

There is a mother whose young son is paralyzed and brain damaged after being hit by a texting driver, and a young man (top) who plowed through a horse-drawn Amish buggy, which killed everyone inside including children, one as young as three. The driver, whose fatal text was "I love you" to his wife, reads a letter he and his wife received from the father of the dead Amish children:

Dear Ones,
Trusting in God's ways, how does this find you? Hope all in good health and in good cheer. Around here we're all on the go and trying to make the best we can. I always wonder if we take enough time with our children. Wishing you the best with your little one and the unknown future. I think of you often. Keep looking up. God is always there. Sincerely, Martin and Mary Schwartz

When the young man finishes reading, he drops his hand with the letter to his leg, with a look of bewilderment.

Another victim is a globe-trotting business woman who was hit while walking her dog. The accident left her brain damaged, and she cannot be left alone outside for fear that she will walk into the road in front of her house or the river behind her house.

The most-complicated relationship is an unlikely bond between a young man (bottom) who caused an accident while texting, and the daughter of a man who was killed in that accident. The young woman's astronomer father was with another scientist when the young man nipped his car and spun it into the path of a big pickup truck, which smashed it. 

It is heartbreaking to listen to the surviving family members, and unreal to hear the young men talking about the accidents they caused, and lives they took. The film notes that more than 100,000 accidents are caused each year by texting, and that statistic is growing. The young man who caused the accident that killed the scientists offers,

"Knowing every day that you killed two people is the hardest thing you can live with."

When I paused the film midway through it and went down to my kitchen, I found my 15-year-old daughter watching George Carlin Jammin in New York on an iPad. In that moment he shouts,

"A near miss is a near collision. A collision is a near miss!"

It was an absurd coincidence; funny and tragic at the same time.

When I got my license in the late 1980s the message was "Don't drink and drive." Now it's "Don't text and drive." It appears that the constant is "drive" so basically the message should be,

Don't drive and do anything else: drink, text, rubberneck, sleep, rage, pet your dog, shave, put on make up, argue, read, do puzzles, clip your nails, do drugs, poke at blemishes, knit, unwrap anything, tie a tie, put on jewelry, search the glove compartment, kiss, or change clothes.

It is amazing that so many roads, especially in remote areas where there is enough land to divide opposing traffic with a natural barrier, split life and death with a painted yellow line. And when I see people driving crazy I try to think what silly errand they are running; ready to run someone over on a quest for a bagel and a cup of coffee.

I find it odd that Herzog turned his lens on this subject, but I am glad he did because he brought me closer to the topic than would a safety video or news article.

Click here to watch From One Second to the Next.