Herzog revisits texting tragedies

The “sequel” to Werner Herzog’s stunning short films about the ravages of distracted driving has debuted at a running length of 35 minutes.

Debbie Drewniak of Vermont -- text messaging victim“From One Second to the Next” visits with those whose lives have been shattered by four drivers who were distracted by text messaging. The film was sponsored by AT&T — and created by Herzog as a director for hire.

The half-hour film can be viewed below or at itcanwait.com

The documentary opens with the testimony of the mother of Xzavier, a Milwaukee boy left in a coma and without legs after a woman who was texting hit him in a school zone.

“She never stopped,” says Valetta, the mother who first told her tale in Herzog’s high-profile 30-second spot of earlier this year. Of “X,” she says, he “would have been an excellent athlete.” Today, he is paralyzed from the diaphragm down, dependent on a breathing machine.

The film moves on to Bluffington, Ind., with the story of Chandler Gerber, who killed three people while exchanging texts with his wife. He hit an Amish family riding in a buggy. “It was just me and the family who was lying in the ditch,” he says of the accident’s immediate aftermath, remembering the awful silence. “I wish so bad I could go back to that day.”

Then in Burlington, Vt., a visit with Debbie Drewniak (pictured), hit by a texting teen while at her mailbox. After emerging from a coma, the one-time globe trotter went on to a life largely spent in her family’s back yard, incapable of caring for herself because of terrible vision and brain damage.

Megan O’Dell of Logan, Utah, remembers her father as a “brilliant scientist” who used to wake her up to watch meteor showers. Reggie Shaw was texting when he crossed the center line and killed the father and another scientist. “I don’t remember what the message said,” he recalls. “That’s how important it was.” Sobbing he says, “All I can think about is those two families, those two men.”

Herzog, the prolific German filmmaker known in recent years for documentaries such as “Into the Abyss” and “Grizzly Man,” does not narrate the film, contrary to his style. He said the project was not about selling anything, but raising awareness.

“I see there’s something going on in civilization which is coming with great vehemence at us,” Herzog told the AP.

AT&T began the ambitious It Can Wait campaign in 2010. AT&T was joined in mid-May by rival wireless carriers Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile, who also funded the text messaging documentary.

The film makes no mention of accidents attributed to drivers engaged in phone calls.

“From One Second to the Next” will be distributed to more than 40,000 high schools nationwide, and hundreds of safety organizations and government agencies, AT&T said.


  1. Al Cinamon says:

    Mark, since when is the dictionary the final arbiter of what words mean? In my view, accident should be limited to the 2nd and 3rd definition, not the first.

    Crashes are not mishaps. When a driver runs a red light, he/she PLANS to do that! Crashes are not left to chance. Crashes have a CAUSE … it’s called irresponsible driving.

  2. Al, there is no doubt that these events are “accidents”. Accidents are often avoidable, but accidents none the less.

    ac·ci·dent [ áksidənt ]
    1. crash: a collision or similar incident involving a moving vehicle, resulting in property damage, personal injury or death
    2. mishap: an unplanned and unfortunate event that results in damage, injury, or upset of some kind
    3. chance: the way things happen without any planning, apparent cause, or deliberate intent

  3. Al Cinamon says:

    First, may I ask why the video’s opening title calls these events “accidents.” I thought we put that myth to rest. These tragedies didn’t just happen for no reason. They were caused by the way people drive and they are avoidable.

    Did you take note (in the first segment) that we were told the driver had the device in her lap to text. That’s because the laws that ban texting don’t stop people from texting. They just force people to hide the device so the police can’t see it.

    I maintain that the laws against distracted driving are phony. They encourage distracted driving.

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