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August 8, 2013 7:18 PM   Subscribe

One Second to the Next - Werner Herzog's 35 minute documentary on texting while driving.
posted by dobbs (51 comments total) 82 users marked this as a favorite

 
That was a very moving documentary, and it's still short enough that it's feasible to show in a high school class or in a driver's ed course.
posted by vegartanipla at 8:05 PM on August 8, 2013


I've done some stupid shit in my life, not a lot of stupid shit, but when it comes to driving, I've done some stupid shit. I haven't done any stupid shit for several years and I will never, ever do any stupid shit ever again. That's a promise. It would be nice if we could all try to do the same.
posted by jontyjago at 8:19 PM on August 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


When I look around - especially when I'm on my bike - it seems to me that there are more drivers texting or talking than not. And with headphones on. Its scary.
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 9:06 PM on August 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


Holy fuck. Just that last bit with the first family. "Did she make it on time? That would be my question for her." Contrasting that with the extra time she has to spend to prepare her son to go anywhere, the lost time in that regards.

That's fucking Herzog. That's insight. That contrast is some goddamned powerful stuff, and I teared up right then.

It's so hard for me in terms of what she's going through - it must be very very difficult. I cannot judge her, even though I do wonder if some of her pain is not just the pain for her son, but as she said "My dream was to stand in the stands..." And that's fair enough - she's grieving for her dreams of a future for her son, and her own son and what he has to deal with. Listening. Worried. Waiting. Every night. Breathing in and out. Trauma. That's what it is. She has suffered trauma where she is now alert and hypersensitive to any potential medical harm that might kill her child. Every day, she has this fear that he might stop breathing. Listening in the background.

I can only hope that the girl who wasn't paying attention got her just deserts.
posted by symbioid at 9:09 PM on August 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oh man, I saw this hyped somewhere else and I must say not bad, and all things considered a respectable effort from big telecom. Hopefully it's going to rack up more than 1300 views though!
posted by Halogenhat at 9:09 PM on August 8, 2013


I can only hope that the girl who wasn't paying attention got her just deserts.

That's the point of this documentary, though - that it isn't just horrible assholes who text and crash, it's normal people who end up deeply regretting their thoughtless choice which resulted in a monumental effect.

Because people, and particularly the invincible teenage flavor of people, think that it won't happen to them. If they consider the topic at all.
posted by vegartanipla at 9:22 PM on August 8, 2013 [21 favorites]


That was brutal. Fuck not texting I'm never getting in a car.

It is amazing how some filmmakers can make every moment, including silences and those somewhat jarring cuts, feel meaningful in some way.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:30 PM on August 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


My God.

Even having worked the aftermath of incidents like these as a paramedic, I was stunned by this. Viscerally shocking.
posted by scrump at 9:36 PM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't know if I can even watch the last 15 minutes. The Amish one had me bursting with tears.
posted by symbioid at 9:37 PM on August 8, 2013


The Amish part got my tears going too.
posted by mannequito at 9:53 PM on August 8, 2013


I know, vegartanipla.

...

In a few weeks it will be 6 years since my sister (and 8 month unborn child) were killed by a drunk driver. I asked for justice, but also mercy. I wanted a firm judgement, and I wanted it made damn clear that drinking and driving was NEVER acceptable. But I knew that he would have to face this demon for the rest of his life. The judge gave him less time than I had initially wanted, but with the condition that once a year on the anniversary he had to visit my sister's grave to reflect. My now ex-brother in law (I won't even get into that story) and his family had asked the judge to suspend that part of the judgement as they supposedly wanted to be there on that day. My mom was upset about that. I just think that he has to live with it. It was the Amish story and the desire for redemption and love of that man that made me cry, because I saw so much in that story.

...

And I know a kid. Or rather, knew.

He was a teenager. A grade younger than I was. I was a junior. He was a sophomore. One day after school bus had stopped in front of him. He passed the bus. There was a five year old girl coming home from kindergarten that day. She never made it across the street.

He had to leave school because of the potential problems his presence would cause (bullying, etc...). At first, I was a real jerk about him, talking shit about him with my friends, being a real crumb bum... but my friend (who is usually the less emotional one) was empathic and told me to be considerate of what he had to go through, knowing he had to live with all that on his head for the rest of his life.

Years later, I dated a girl who was friends with him. I was staying at her house one night and she got a call. It was fairly short and she left the room. She came back into the room with this shocked look on her face.

He hung himself.

She told me that he had always felt horribly guilty but that his dad would constantly berate him and never live it down, even after he graduated. Judgement from within and without.

Sometimes we are our own worst judges. Sometimes we are harsher than any other person can be in their judgement of us.
posted by symbioid at 9:56 PM on August 8, 2013 [30 favorites]


Beautiful documentary.

This was not about the victims. It was about the culprits. And that's who this documentary was for: the people who think texting is so trivial a behavior that you can text and drive and get away with it.

Sometimes you can't. It feels absurd that you can't, because texting is so insignificant, so trivial – and that absurdity is something Werner Herzog knows well. Sometimes you can't.
posted by Rory Marinich at 10:37 PM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


In the political climate of the United States, a moving Werner Herzog movie about the consequences of TWD automatically makes TWD a god-given right that any attempt to legislatively mitigate the damages from is a direct attack on the Constitution.
posted by Camofrog at 10:52 PM on August 8, 2013


I don't believe that we can stop people from using their mobile phones while driving; at this point it seems almost as futile to me as telling drivers not to talk to the passengers in the car. I'd love it if we could focus on the second half of "don't text and drive": Do go ahead and text, but use public transport.
posted by wachhundfisch at 11:07 PM on August 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Werner Herzog does it again! Very moving, and what a teaching moment! This should be required viewing in every driver's ed class, and mandatory viewing prior to licensing. Also, anyone caught texting while driving should lose their phone for at least a year. That's a way worse penalty than any fine, or jail time - especially these days where a phone is probably as important as one's clothing.
posted by Vibrissae at 11:09 PM on August 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


First off, I want to hug every member of X's family including him.

Secondly, the guy who killed the Amish people and a horse still doesn't seem to understand the full ramifications of his actions. When he referred to seeing the Amish people in the ditch who had "passed away" it almost sickened me. They didn't "pass away" you asshole. You brutally killed them!

The dumb little teenage girl who completely destroyed another family's life gets off with a trivial fine because she only had liability insurance? Beyond ridiculous.

And the last asshole who crossed the center line sending two men to their deaths is now a "motivational speaker?" What is this? Kill two people via your self-centered carelessness and negligence, and you will be punished by being given a lucrative speaking circuit where you can earn money for the rest of your life? (I know it didn't say a thing about whether or not he gets paid for speaking, but I'm guessing he's getting some sort of remuneration because of things like, you know, rent, food, travel expenses, etc.)

I know accidents like this have been happening for ages before cell phones came upon the scene. Hell, I can remember two instances when I was a young driver where I got distracted by something going on inside my car (I admit it was dumb luck that saved me from harming the people in vehicles around me because I locked up the brakes on my car, kept it in my lane, and stopped in time.). I'm not saying I'm better than any of these accidental killers.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 12:42 AM on August 9, 2013


symbioid, I'm so sorry for your loss and I appreciate your sharing those stories. They resonate.

It's always scary to me that one person's lapse in judgement can be so totally life-altering for so many people.
posted by vegartanipla at 12:44 AM on August 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


When he referred to seeing the Amish people in the ditch who had "passed away" it almost sickened me. They didn't "pass away" you asshole. You brutally killed them!

I interpreted that specific phrasing to mean he had severely injured them and they later died from those injuries in the hospital.

And the last asshole who crossed the center line sending two men to their deaths is now a "motivational speaker?" What is this? Kill two people via your self-centered carelessness and negligence, and you will be punished by being given a lucrative speaking circuit where you can earn money for the rest of your life? (I know it didn't say a thing about whether or not he gets paid for speaking, but I'm guessing he's getting some sort of remuneration because of things like, you know, rent, food, travel expenses, etc.)

I highly doubt even if he's getting some compensation that it's lucrative. And I doubt it's that enjoyable to have to repeatedly discuss what must've been one of his worst moments and see the audience's gaze change to a mixture of horror/anger/pity over and over again.
posted by vegartanipla at 1:14 AM on August 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


We are all dumb little girls.
posted by Brocktoon at 3:08 AM on August 9, 2013 [9 favorites]


In the political climate of the United States, a moving Werner Herzog movie about the consequences of TWD automatically makes TWD a god-given right that any attempt to legislatively mitigate the damages from is a direct attack on the Constitution.

Given that I've actually read a comment here from someone saying that being told they couldn't text and drive made them MORE likely to want to do so - well, I wish your exaggeration was a little less realistic.

The idea of an inviolate personal autonomy that not only owes nothing to others, but is angry at the suggestion... it's just heartbreaking for me. Yet we've treated that spiteful independence as a virtue in the US.

I often think of that comment, especially as I'm walking, watching cars go past. I hope the drivers near me don't feel the same way. I hope that commenter here is able to realize that a car is a weapon without having to undergo tragedy, or cause it. I hope they watch this video and have second thoughts.
posted by dubold at 3:30 AM on August 9, 2013 [12 favorites]


When he referred to seeing the Amish people in the ditch who had "passed away" it almost sickened me. They didn't "pass away" you asshole. You brutally killed them!

That's a not-uncommon defense mechanism, I think. It's got to be insurmountably difficult to get on camera and call yourself a baby killer. His choice of words probably made him more comfortable at the time, but I'm sure he knows what he did.

Then again, at the end when he was giving his final thoughts, he stated that "your life can change forever," whereas I would have like him to include a bit about the lives of others. (i.e. the actual victims)
posted by ShutterBun at 3:38 AM on August 9, 2013


X's story hits because of all those nights spent awake, wondering if my brother was going to make it to the morning. The thought of a family going though that not because of physical birth defects but because of texting is so fucking strange to me, like what message could possibly be worth that?
posted by edeezy at 4:23 AM on August 9, 2013


Because of all the texting, distracted, rage filled drivers; bike riding on public roads has become more and more unpleasant and dangerous. It seems like at least once a month a cyclist is killed (often hit and run) by a driver around here.
posted by remo at 5:09 AM on August 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


I fully expect to wake up one morning to see Herzog and his camera crew in the corner of my bedroom, and to have to put up with it as they follow me to the bathroom, downstairs where he asks me pointed questions about my choice of breakfast, and they wrap the whole thing as I get into my car for the commute. It will wind up linked here, and be up for a few prestigious awards, but I won't be famous, as no-one who isn't drunk and lost on Netflix after midnight actually watches any of his stuff.

You should expect this, too.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:13 AM on August 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


I have sold both my cars because of road rage, DWT and expense. I have taken a lot of risks in my life but driving has become too dangerous to my body and mind.
posted by JohnR at 5:54 AM on August 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


Texting is only the most recent and sensational aspect of distracted driving / encumbered driving, which has been a ticketable offence (and killing people) for, like, ever.

Anybody remember the pre cell-phone PSA*, "[Name] didn't like the song on the radio, so he killed a little girl"?*

So when does Anil Dash blog about why the "texting while driving" taboo is culturally determined and tell us all to lighten up?

Whoever that is, send him/her to these sites. Everyone thinks they're better at multi-tasking then they actually are.

USDOT on Distracted Driving (distraction.gov (!))

CDC on Distracted Driving

Did you notice the gorilla?



*Anybody remember PSAs?
posted by Herodios at 6:21 AM on August 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have not watched this documentary, but I am guessing the "X" you refer to is the kid that they are constantly doing ads about on the CW's video player. Which is probably for the right audience, there.

I don't get why anyone thinks that they can text--specifically looking for the damn letters--while driving. I have less of an issue with people talking on the phone because as someone else pointed out, you really can't stop people from doing that and they might be trying to get directions or be trying to find someone while you're picking them up at the airport or something (literally, that's the only reason I talk on the phone in a car), but at least that's something you don't have to use hands for.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:26 AM on August 9, 2013


InsertNiftyNameHere: "And the last asshole who crossed the center line sending two men to their deaths is now a "motivational speaker?" What is this? Kill two people via your self-centered carelessness and negligence, and you will be punished by being given a lucrative speaking circuit where you can earn money for the rest of your life?"

In the case of the guy who killed my sister, part of the sentence was that each year he had to go give a speech on the dangers of drunk driving to schoolkids. I wouldn't call that 'motivational' pers se, but I do wonder if that's what is meant by that term. I haven't watched it yet, so I have no clue if there's more info than that. But it could be something like that. If not. Ugh. Psychopathy.
posted by symbioid at 6:31 AM on August 9, 2013


I don't get why anyone thinks that they can text--specifically looking for the damn letters--while driving. I have less of an issue with people talking on the phone. . .

WP:
The scientific literature is mixed on the dangers of talking on a cell phone versus those of talking with a passenger. . . . A study by a University of South Carolina psychology researcher featured in the journal, Experimental Psychology, found that planning to speak and speaking put far more demands on the brain’s resources than listening.

The Accident Research Unit at the University of Nottingham found that the number of utterances was usually higher for mobile calls when compared to blindfolded and non-blindfolded passengers across various driving conditions. . . .

A 2004 University of Utah simulation study that compared passenger and cell-phone conversations concluded that the driver performs better when conversing with a passenger because the traffic and driving task become part of the conversation. Drivers holding conversations on cell phones were four times more likely to miss the highway exit than those with passengers, and drivers conversing with passengers showed no statistically significant difference from lone drivers in the simulator. . . .

In contrast, the University of Illinois meta-analysis concluded that passenger conversations were just as costly to driving performance as cell phone ones. . . . A simulation study funded by the American Transportation Research Board concluded that driving events that require urgent responses may be influenced by in-vehicle conversations, and that there is little practical evidence that passengers adjusted their conversations to changes in the traffic. It concluded that drivers' training should address the hazards of both mobile phone and passenger conversations.
but at least that's something you don't have to use hands for.

CDC:
There are three main types of distraction: Distracted driving activities include things like using a cell phone, texting, and eating. Using in-vehicle technologies (such as navigation systems) can also be sources of distraction. While any of these distractions can endanger the driver and others, texting while driving is especially dangerous because it combines all three types of distraction.
WP again:
Driving while using a handsfree cellular device is not safer than using a hand held cell phone, as concluded by case-crossover studies. epidemiological, simulation, and meta-analysis.

The increased cognitive workload involved in holding a conversation, not the use of hands, causes the increased risk.
posted by Herodios at 6:41 AM on August 9, 2013 [10 favorites]


it isn't just horrible assholes who text and crash, it's normal people

No, it's just that almost everyone is a horrible asshole, but our casual moments of extreme selfishness generally don't result in drastic consequences for others, so we don't notice them.

I have, much to my constant chagrin, a horribly morbid bent which causes me to wonder nearly every time my girlfriend--whom I love dearly--and I are parted whether some roll of the dice will mean I never see her again (or hell, that she'll never see me again). I always make sure to give her a kiss and tell her I love her any time either one of us walks out the door. I hate it, but I pretty much have Raistlin's curse (hello, dated reference).

Our mother chaos rules all.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 6:43 AM on August 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oh - so, one reason they might have had that one guy say "it can ruin your life" (as if the second story wasn't enough of a massive tip on that point) is because a lot of kids are stupid greedy selfish idiots (sorry, a lot of adults in America are that way, too, not just the kids). They need things explained to them, not in the horrors they cause others, because hey "that's not me, better to kill than be killed." But if you put the pain of being the killer in the limelight, if you make it clear that you are also going to have to pay, not just through legalistic means (which of course suck), but also in reliving it (hopefully, if you have a conscience), and potentially, physically being a victim of your own stupidity (I am doubting the last guy ended up hurt in any physical capacity?). I think that would have been important to show - a texter who was severely injured as well, for the jackasses who are all so self important and think their text is more important than anyone else's life (except their own of course).

Anil Dash is a mefite who harbors some backwards views, IMO. He's somewhat well known in techy circles as an opinion writer in various places online.

As for phone talking, while in some ways I agree with you that it seems less dangerous, that feeling of less danger is, itself, a danger. You don't think you have to be extra careful, because hey "I'm just talking, not like... texting, or anything." Especially when there are stats showing that Talking While Driving (and that even includes people who are in the car, IIRC) is just as dangerous as drunk driving.

Thanks for the kind words, vegartanipla. I'm mostly over it, but every once in a while something reminds me (like this) and it's good to let it out.
posted by symbioid at 6:44 AM on August 9, 2013


I'm not saying this isn't a problem, but is there any evidence that the number of traffic accidents has increased since people started using smartphones?
posted by Pararrayos at 6:45 AM on August 9, 2013


For people who don't want to watch heart-wrenching 35-minute documentaries, this two-minute video is a pretty darn effective alternative:
How do you convince youngsters not to text while driving? Prove them it is a very bad idea: oblige them to text while driving! See how Belgian learner drivers reacted when they were told they had to pass the mobile phone test in order to get their driver's license.
(I think I saw this on the blue, but don't find the original post.)
posted by evilmomlady at 6:48 AM on August 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


I was expecting to see one story like this one, where the culprit was also the victim. I think this is a really powerful film, and I love that it was co-sponsored by so many big telecoms. But it really did seem to send the message that "you might hurt or kill someone else, and then how would you feel?" along with the sense that you pretty much do get away with it - the two killers are clearly not in jail, and the one who hit Debbie only got 30 days plus house arrest. I'm not advocating harsher sentences or saying that they are not suffering the consequences of their actions - clearly this is accidental and they are palpably aware of what they did. But for a teenaged audience, I wish it had gone a bit further.
posted by Mchelly at 7:48 AM on August 9, 2013


I like the idea of taking phones away as part of the punishment. It may be better than taking away cars, which can put people out of their jobs or lead them to drive illegally. Confiscating cell phones won't compound the harm in that way, and it may just help reset people's assumptions. A cell phone is a luxury.

I've been thinking about this, because my small rural town doesn't have much in the way of cell phone access. A lot of buzz surrounds various efforts to put up a new tower around here, and people say "we need this" with a straight face. As a volunteer fire/EMS, I see it differently—our village has fewer auto accidents on average than the next town over near the ski resort. For whatever that's worth. Obviously, many factors are involved but I don't need a study to know that our gap in cell coverage is part of it.

I canceled my iPhone contract when I moved here, and have a pre-paid el cheapo phone I use mainly just when traveling far away a few times a year. Most of the time I don't know where the durn thing is. My eyes were glued to my iPhone when I lived in NYC (and didn't drive), and I wasn't even aware of that till I came here. The withdrawal lasted about a day actually, and I'm better off for it.

I'm sorry if this sounds preachy but that's just how it went for me. It's good for people to question assumptions, especially when a huge industry has us convinced a recently invented luxury object is a necessity.
posted by maniabug at 8:13 AM on August 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I watch myself watching this and incrementally making judgments about people for various reasons. My compassion seems to lag somewhere behind. Then the father of the Amish family writes his letter and I feel like I really have a lot to learn about being a good person.

I'm learning to drive at the moment; trying to hold on to the perspective this gives me.
posted by aesop at 9:02 AM on August 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's the cell phones, not just the texting:"[Matthew Wilhelm], a University of Illinois mechanical engineering graduate working for Caterpillar in Peoria, died on Sept. 8 from head injuries he received Sept. 2 when [Jennifer] Stark hit him with her car because she was downloading ring tones to her cell phone instead of paying attention to driving." (Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette, November 30, 2006)
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 1:28 PM on August 9, 2013


I'm 43 and so I spent quite a bit of time as an adult without a cell phone (or later, smartphone). I use my iPhone all the time but almost never while in the car. Occasionally I'll have speakerphone on if finishing a call I started before getting in the car, but I've almost stopped that as well after reading some of those studies showing that handsfree isn't any better.

Honestly, most of the time there's no useful reason to talk to people or check up on email or texts while en route somewhere. What if I get halfway home and my wife realizes we're out of Diet Coke just as I'm passing a store? What if I'm running late to work and I have to tell someone? What if I'm bored and want to talk to someone? What if I want to say "I'm almost to the restuarant! I'm parking! Wow, it's crowded! Ok, here I come!"

See, none of that stuff is important ... it just isn't. I can go back out to get Coke (or text before I leave to see if we need anything); I can apologize to my boss and FREAKING LEAVE EARLIER the next time instead of cutting it so close; I can listen to NPR or something; the friend at the restaurant can, you know, wait for a few minutes till I get there.

On that last point, I pretty much always bring a book if I'm meeting someone somewhere, so I can just hang out and wait. Plus now I have a smartphone I can play around with while I wait ...

And if someone calls me while I'm driving I just sort of ignore it. Because I'm going to go where I was going anyway, and I can call them later.
posted by freecellwizard at 1:31 PM on August 9, 2013


(Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette, November 30, 2006)

State's Attorney Julia Rietz made the call not to lodge any more serious charge than improper lane usage against Stark, saying that the legal definition of recklessness, to sustain reckless homicide or reckless driving, did not fit her actions.


Ugh, what bullshit. Taking your eyes off the road to download ringtones sure sounds like a willful and wanton disregard for the safety of others to me. So this...person gets six months of wishy-washy probation and a $1,000 fine for fucking killing someone. More evidence that in the eyes of the law, cyclists aren't people.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 1:42 PM on August 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry, but I couldn't make it through the whole thing. After the third story I bailed. Not because it's badly made, but because Herzog does such a good job of showing the extent of each tragedy. The ruined lives and wasted potential. It's so unbearably sad, and it happens thousands of times every year.
posted by Kevin Street at 2:47 PM on August 9, 2013


I was generally OK until Debbie had to comfort her sister. :(

I'm not so sure how effective this is as an anti-DWT piece, though. It's more anti-driving in general. In stories #2 and #4, it's clear that speed was certainly a factor in the accidents, at least in their severity.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:53 PM on August 9, 2013


And the last asshole who crossed the center line sending two men to their deaths is now a "motivational speaker?" What is this? Kill two people via your self-centered carelessness and negligence, and you will be punished by being given a lucrative speaking circuit where you can earn money for the rest of your life? (I know it didn't say a thing about whether or not he gets paid for speaking, but I'm guessing he's getting some sort of remuneration because of things like, you know, rent, food, travel expenses, etc.)

I don't know why you put "motivational speaker" in quotes, because that phrase is never used to describe what he does. The caption in the documentary reads: "Reggie Shaw has devoted his life to speaking publicly about the dangers of texting and driving." A New York Times article about a Utah texting law that Shaw supported reports that he pleaded guilty to the charges against him against his lawyers' advice, and that he testified before Congress in support of a federal ban on texting while driving. His testimony before Utah's legislature was reportedly instrumental in the law's enactment there.

"Motivational" is not my takeaway from any of that, nor is "lucrative speaking circuit" for that matter. I don't know what he did before the accident. He could presumably have kept doing that, tried to keep his head down and fade away and forget what happened. Instead he's lobbied for tighter laws and made spreading the word about the repercussions of texting while driving his life's work. It doesn't bring the two men he killed back to life, but it's nothing to disparage him for.
posted by payoto at 3:32 PM on August 9, 2013 [11 favorites]


All smartphones have voice to speech and cars either have bluetooth built in or you can buy a cheap bluetooth link.

This makes it easy to receive and send texts without taking your eyes of the road and keep both hands on driving.

There's no excuse for not making use of this completely accessible handsfree feature.
posted by linux at 4:10 PM on August 9, 2013


linux - if you look upthread you will see many studies referred to that indicate that "hands-free" doesn't mean "distraction free" and is also not a good thing and should not be encouraged. If anything, it gives a false sense of security and a sense of overconfidence that one isn't texting or "really" talking on a cell phone so, they're not gonna have a problem.

----
That said, there was this disturbing caption on the news story linked about that girl who died on her first solo drive while texting (which may or may not be part of the cause, as clarified in the article). The caption was this:
A judge will decide whether the sender of a text message can be held liable for the car crash that occurred when the recipient read that message.
That is some grade-A bullshit, UNLESS it can be shown that the sender was informed that the person was driving, then perhaps, that MIGHT be one factor to consider, however, is that really a judge's place to decide? It seems there'd have to be some language written in a law to cover that scenario specifically.

If you were to text someone and they answered it and then get in an accident, you have no idea that they were in the vehicle (well, not necessarily, unless they had just left where you were and you knew they were driving somewhere else, for example). How can you be held liable for their action of responding, when you didn't even KNOW they were in the vehicle? I'm sure the details are left out and it is something more along those lines.
posted by symbioid at 5:46 PM on August 9, 2013


Yes, but again, it isn't just looking at the phone -- it's the distraction and division of attention. In fact, voice-to-text features don't help and may make things worse.

is there any evidence that the number of traffic accidents has increased since people started using smartphones?

There's a real lag in data, and it will never reach researchers in a fully homogenized and broken-down form. I suspect it may not be possible at this time to specifically distinguish between cell-phone voice calls, texting, and smartphone usage (apps, etc.) -- not to mention the new breed of car console tech that's a lot like tablets. We do know that it's been increasing overall.

You know, I always think back to years ago, before cell phones, around 1980. A friend of mine and I were having one of those late-night bullpen sessions where we contemplated the vagaries of the universe and he asked, "Have you ever driven somewhere, and realized you weren't paying any attention until you got there?" As in, reacting automatically to signs, lights, other cars on the road, while woolgathering or listening to music or something else -- basically driving, but using the autonomic, lizard parts of your brain, instead of being present in the way you're supposed to be. I was really stressed yesterday and drove someplace -- to destress, in fact -- and had something of that realization when I arrived. I had just been thinking about all the stuff on my mind instead of, well, paying attention. And that wasn't even with a single distraction, not even the radio.

And I probably shouldn't be engaging a specific poster here, but this is a bit of an outlier, and InsertNiftyNameHere seems to have some unusual expectations. "Passed away" is a euphemism, to be sure, but it's a common one in spoken American English. I would say that from the presentation that was, in fact, the point at which the driver did realize the consequences of his actions. Your criticisms seem rather abstract and semantic, as if using the correct words will change what happened. No, it won't, but if by doing this film he gets enough people to think twice about texting, maybe he can save at least as many lives as his reckless actions took.

You're also wrong about the Vermont crash. The young woman's liability insurance would be capped in almost any case. She wasn't simply fined, either -- she spent 30 days in jail, five months home confinement, and will be on probation until 2018. That may not seem much, but then I see people around here calling for the law to "lock up and throw away the key" for people who drive under the influence without even causing injury, and yet the average sentence for criminal homicide in the United States is just seven years.

Finally, Shaw was instructed to speak to students about texting as part of his original sentence. It's a responsibility he has continued afterward, voluntarily. I can't imagine him receiving anything more than travel expenses for such a thing. (Many times, such things are handled through a foundation/non-profit, anyway.) In addition to this film, he's previously worked with the Utah DOT to promote safe driving, laying himself bare. I really don't understand where you get "asshole" out of this. "Idiot", "jerk", "fool", perhaps, but I think being an asshole requires a sustained intent to be cravenly unaffected by the injury your actions cause, and that doesn't seem at all the case here.
posted by dhartung at 6:12 PM on August 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


That may be your personal definition of "asshole," but it's not like the word has a well-defined meaning.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 8:10 PM on August 9, 2013


Sort of exactly my point. The poster was calling names, and to rationalize that antipathy was using as examples things that substantially indicated the name-calling is undeserved. I mean, you can have as a personal code of honor a standard where if someone negligently kills someone else they are never capable of redeeming themselves in your eyes, but to actually attack attempts at redemption and mitigation of the injury -- that's really strange and suggests some more personal issues.
posted by dhartung at 8:23 PM on August 9, 2013


If you started driving on public roads as a teenager, you at some point did something completely careless or reckless when behind the wheel. If you were lucky and didn't kill anyone, that's fantastic. These people in this film are you when you did kill or injure someone. I'm pretty sure Herzog hints at this slightly, without marginalizing the awful thing that you did.
posted by Brocktoon at 9:00 PM on August 9, 2013


I got no dog in the semantics battle. I have seen this all over Facebook; looks like Slate picked it up as well.

This FPP is germane to my interests however, as tonight I was riding home from work, within a block and a half of my house in a residential suburban neighborhood, and a woman driving an SUV with kids in it blew a stop sign onto the thru street I was riding where I had right of way, and very nearly ran me over (I am fortunate to have extremely good evasive handling skills and luckily hydraulic disc brakes on my bike too). Her head was down as she was driving and I can only surmise she was texting or otherwise messing with some kind of device. She had her window open so I screamed at her, and the look of shock and horror on her face as she slammed on the brakes was... I would say gratifying but she had kids in the car fercrissakes. I would imagine she has blown that stop at least twice a day daily for the past who knows how many months driving her kids to wherever.

These are normal people. You and me. It could be any of us. It only takes a split second for things to go haywire.

I will say that as someone who has not owned a car for vast tracts of my adult life, and who's been at the mercy of distracted driving since prior to the mobile age, in my perception it has gotten a whole lot worse recently.

Since I started using mobiles and especially smartphones, and doubly so since I learned how to drive stick last year, knowing what shitty impulse control I have for myself, I have taken one ironclad personal rule to heart. Anytime I get in the car to drive anywhere, even if it's just around the big double block to our friend's house, my phone ringer gets turned off, my phone gets put in my messenger bag, and the whole thing gets thrown in the back seat. Shit I don't even listen to the radio anymore. I've got bones that never grew back straight after I got doored in DC, and I've been hit by cars or hit cars several times since then, fortunately to varying degrees of superficially, and to me the distraction factor is just not worth the risk.
posted by lonefrontranger at 9:11 PM on August 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


One day when self driving cars are perfected we will look back on this age and wonder how we ever found so much vehicular carnage acceptable.
posted by benzenedream at 11:35 AM on August 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


These are normal people. You and me. It could be any of us. It only takes a split second for things to go haywire.

I drive, so I understand this. There but for the grace of God and all that.

I also know that of all the times as a cyclist that a car has almost hit me, I bear those drivers far less ill will than the one guy (jacked red pickup bearing two CSA battle flags, no less) who deliberately ran me off the road for kicks.

You know, at one time I had a truck with some really enormous C-pillars (old Isuzu Amigo), and twice driving down Sheridan Road in Chicago I almost wiped a motorcyclist off the map because of my blind spot. Once I never got the opportunity, but you know damned well the next time it happened I made sure that I pulled up next to the guy afterward (stoplights aplenty ...) and apologized profusely. Because karma.
posted by dhartung at 3:26 PM on August 10, 2013


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