Werner Herzog's latest documentary takes on texting-while-driving; this being a classic Herzog effort, it's chilling enough to make us never want to use our cell phones in the car ever again. The thirty-minute clip, sponsored by AT&T and available on YouTube, interviews the victims of accidents caused by drivers distracted by cellphone messages. Much like Into the Abyss — his searing epic on death row inmates in Texas — Herzog has subjects from all sides of the accidents talk about their losses while slow, twangy music plays in the background.
"I knew I could do it because it has to do with catastrophic events invading a family," said Herzog. "In one second, entire lives are either wiped out or changed forever. That kind of emotional resonance is something that I knew I could cover." The first story begins with Xzaviar, a boy paralyzed after a woman failed to stop at a four-way stop sign so she could text "I'm on my way." From there, we meet a man who killed two Amish children, then a woman with mounting medical bills, and, finally, families that lost their fathers. We also meet some of the remorseful people who texted while driving. It's all very sad and appropriately dramatic.
The film will show in over 40,000 schools, which should help matters — 20 percent of teens have admitted to texting while driving, even though it's illegal in most states. Hundreds of safety and government organizations will watch the film, too. The National Safety Council estimated that 1.6 million crashes each year involve cell phones. That sounds like a lot until you consider the 10.9 million motor vehicle accidents reported in 2009. Hopefully, this film will help.