Do You Text While Driving?

Stop. Your message can wait.

Students at Memphis University School gathered recently for their Friday morning assembly, but this one was different. Lower School Principal Clay Smythe introduced From One Second to the Next, a documentary by filmmaker Werner Herzog that serves as a cautionary tale of the shattered lives left behind when people choose to text and drive. The issue hits close to home for Smythe, who escaped serious injury after being T-boned by a driver who didn’t see him due to texting.

Herzog’s film, made in partnership with wireless carriers AT&T, Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile, and Sprint, quickly went viral after its debut August 8th, garnering praise and more than 1.75 million views on YouTube.

The stories are told by mothers and brothers, daughters and sons, and in some instances, drivers themselves, since the victims are no longer living or forever altered by the accident. The anguish expressed over such senseless loss is moving.

One young mother talks about how she yearned to watch her 8-year-old son, Xavier, grow up to play football. Instead, he enters the scene in a wheelchair, paralyzed from the waist down and dependent on life support. “There are times when the pain is so bad, I can’t breathe,” says his mother tearfully. “I can’t tell him to go and play.”

The National Safety Council estimates 1.6 million accidents are caused by distracted drivers using cell phones and/or texting, 28 percent of all crashes annually. Since state laws haven’t kept up with technology, some fines can seem inconsequential. In one story, the teenage driver spent 30 days in detention and did community service following her accident; meanwhile, the 55-year-old woman she hit can no longer work or live independently.

MUS senior Nick Schwartz says he and his mother often text in the car — and it worries him. “It’s a subconscious thought, you don’t think about the outcome.” But these stories make you realize “texting and driving can have consequences that are unbelievable,” he says. “You are not immune.”

Consider this: You must take your eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds to send a text. That’s equivalent to driving the length of a football field at 55 m.p.h. — blindfolded. In the meantime, traffic lights change and drivers switch lanes. Sound risky? Just ask a police officer, a judge, or a grieving parent. As one driver who killed two people said, “I wish I could go back to that day and change my focus. I wish I would have sent that text later.”  

Smythe challenged students to discuss this topic with their parents and ask them to pay $20 for each time they text while driving. After watching this film that would be a small price to pay — if it meant saving a life.


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