New Herzog Film Explores Consequences of Texting While Driving
By Jen Benepe
A new film has been made by filmmaker Werner Herzog highlighting the consequences of texting while driving.
The 35-minute short “One Second to the Next,” was paid for by major telephone companies and shows the devastation wrought on families by people who text.
In a series of vignettes, the film details the experiences of families after five crashes caused by drivers who were texting, from the families that had members hit by drivers who were texting, as well as the interviews with the drivers who were texting and caused the deaths and damage.
This should be required watching for every single person in the United States (with the exception of small children.)
The film shows the impact of texting from the eyes of families that lost family members, or the texters themselves. The stories are heart-wrenchingly told. But what comes through loud and clear is that there are not strict laws in this country against texting.
The texters are here to tell their tale: none of them are in jail, and by all appearances, they are still driving. If anything, the film puts on a spotlight on the ineffective state and federal laws against texting, as well as the lack of punitive measures.
It begs the question: Why aren’t these people in jail?
That question of course is never answered because this film is working within the constructs of the U.S. system where though it is illegal to text and drive in many states, the penalties for killing someone while doing so are practically non-existent.
Even those states like New York where texting while driving is illegal, getting phone records requires a court order. It’s not clear if technically a driver can erase their messages before police officers arrive.
And the entire exercise–of making a film to help send the messages–paid for by phone companies who are enjoying massive profits from that texting, yet haven’t bothered to look for a technical solution to disable texting while people are driving, shrieks of hypocrisy.
Still it is remarkable that Herzog was able to get these people–especially the textures– to speak on camera, and there is a strong likelihood that they would not have if they were incarcerated or faced greater penalties.
Little 8-year-old Xzavier was hit by a texting driver in Milwaukee, WI, and is now paralyzed
from the waist down and rides in a wheelchair.
“She missed his brain stem by that much,” says the mother showing a small pinch with her fingers.
Little Xzavier who is called X for short, cannot breath properly because of the paralysis: “Most nights I am here lying on the couch listening for his ventilator,” she says to make sure he doesn’t die in the middle of the night.
Aurie, X’s sister, was walking across the street with her little brother on that October day. “We pray that another child doesn’t get taken from a family member’s hand,” says Valetta.
“She was not only speeding in the school zone, but she also ran through the stop sign, because she was texting,” says Aurie.
“She never stopped at a 4-way stop sign, she never stopped,” says X’s mother. “I am told that the text was “I am on my way.” Did she make it? Did she get to where she was going on time? That would be my question to her.”
In a “Letter from Martin,” a young man says, “This is the last message I sent before I killed three people,” and on the screen it says “I love you.”
Chandler Gerber hit and killed an Amish family because he was texting back and forth with his wife while driving East into the sunrise in Bluffton, IN.
“As I started coming to a stop, I saw a body coming from the top of the van, and I thought oh my God what have I done,” recounts Gerber.
As he jumped out of the van there was total silence, and he looked in the ditch, “and there were bodies just laying there.”
“The only thing I saw moving was the horse, it was severely wounded and moving about.”
“The mother was laying down on her hands and knees like she was just sitting on a chair.”
Says first responder police officer Diosado Hernandez of the driver, “He was crying, he was in a panic.”
“I saw a hearse drive by, and right then I had this sinking feeling that there was at least one dead person,” says Gerber. He had killed the mother, two small children ages 3 and 5 and a 17-year-old.
“I saw the youngest of the children, laying face down in the ditch, right in front of me, he looked like he was asleep,” recounts Hernandez. “It was very devastating,” he recounts, choking back tears.
Gerber received a note from Martin Schwartz, the father of the children who had been killed. Schwartz wished him the best with his “little one,” Gerber’s child.
“I wish so bad I could go back to that day and change my focus.”
In” Our Little Sister Debbie,” a woman has been severely injured by a driver. She can no longer function as a normal human being.
Her family has to put up a fence in the yard so she won’t “roll down to the river.” Debbie Drewniak went from an active worker who spent 60 hours a day at work, and traveled around the world, to woman who can barely talk or function by herself.
Drewniak was struck by a teenager who was texting while driving: Drewniak was walking her dog. The impact of the hit dragged Drewniak down the road.
Drewniak had a smashed pelvis, broken angle and leg, ripped-off thumb, and other multiple injuries.
Her brother who went to visit her in the hospital told her “Debbie I know you are in there.” She squeezed his hand.
The teenager was only sentenced to 30 days in jail, 5 months of house arrest, 500 hours of community service. Drewniak’s hospital bills added up to over $1M. The teenager’s insurance only amounted to $50,000. The driver refused to talk to the filmmakers.
Drewniak’s dog, a chocolate lab, laid on the side of the road after taking the full force of the car. According to neighbors, as he lay dying he wagged his tail as Drewniak was loaded into an ambulance. The family did not find his body for a long time.
Reggie Shaw didn’t even remember what he was texting when he hit another car going in the other direction. His action sent the other car containing two scientists into a pickup truck owned by John Kaiserman. “My pickup up went half-way through that car,” he said.
A gruesome photo shown by police officer and first responder, Chad Vernon bears evidence to the destruction of the blue car carrying the two scientists.
“When I look at that picture, all I can think about is those families, those two men,” says Shaw crying.
“While I was driving I decided that texting was more important to me than those two families.”
When she saw the driver in court, one of the men’s daughters, Megan O’Dell, says “All I could do was look at him and hate him, …and wish that he was dead instead of my father.”