Werner Herzog directed the surprisingly good Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans a few years back, and now he’s put his not inconsiderable talents to work making a film about the consequences of distracted driving.
Titled “From One Second To The Next”, the movie was funded by AT&T and is intended to — well, not to prevent texting and driving, because some major percentage of AT&T’s revenue depends on people feeling like they need to stay connected to other mobile-device users at all times, but at least to shame people who cause accidents while they’re doing it. Oddly enough, my son and I witnessed a distracted-driving accident on Thursday while heading home from his school. A woman in her fifties simply drove into the back of a stopped car, waiting to hit her brakes until she was perhaps fifty feet away. I saw that it was going to happen for at least a second and a half before it did, even though the clone and I were busy singing the harmony parts to “Ragged Wood” by the Fleet Foxes. The perpetrator wasn’t texting or chatting or surfing the web; she was just an old woman with poor depth perception and no expectation that there would be stopped cars ahead of her. The impact was pretty hard, and the victim was an elderly guy in a late-Nineties LeSabre. Had I not had my son with me, I’d have tried to assist after the fact, but there was no safe place to stash him at the time.
So now you have an anecdote that suggests that texting and driving isn’t responsible for all the accidents out there, which you can add to the four anecdotes in the movie. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying that “distracted driving” is completely insignificant. However, there’s nothing to suggest that it deserves the current cause celebre status it has in the media. The cynic in me thinks it’s yet another battlefield of our little American Kulturkampf. Distracted driving is primarily a middle-class affliction. Poor people don’t own cars, the urban elite take public transportation, and the country’s tastemakers are typically driven in the back of Town Cars and S-Klasses. There’s a considerable number of people out there who are willing to make texting and driving punishable by death because they are never in a situation where they could commit the crime themselves. Furthermore, the middle class can be taxed and fined and regulated and they will largely play the game the way it’s meant to be played, occasionally contributing $150 to the public coffers while furtively holding their phones beneath the increasingly elevated beltlines of their fortress-like SUVs.
Texting and driving is wrapped up in the urban mind with fat people and hicks and the Ford F-150 and the AR-15 and Miranda Lambert and all that other lamentable garbage. Why not rail against it? It’s sort of like the people who rail passionately against Nestle’s former activities in Africa because it’s mostly irrelevant to them; they never eat Crunch! bars anyway. Mr. Herzog’s documentary is unlikely to change anybody’s mind. Either you already hate texting and driving for reasons that are mostly cultural, or you don’t. If you have thirty-five minutes to burn today, you might be better off reading Daniel Greenfield’s essay on some of the root causes behind this difference of opinion.