California schools have been back in session for just over a month now. If they haven't done so already, many high schools will be showing a new documentary that sends a powerful and compelling message. That message is: It only takes a few seconds to end your own life or someone else's by texting and driving.
Acclaimed filmmaker Werner Herzog was commissioned by AT&T and several other communications companies to create the documentary titled "From One Second to the Next." The full-length version is about 35 minutes long, but a shortened version has been distributed to approximately 40,000 U.S. high schools.
Laws against distracted driving are necessary but they have done little on their own to reduce this dangerous behavior. Documentaries like Herzog's, on the other hand, are effective because they personalize the potential consequences. The film tells the stories of several injurious and/or fatal auto accidents caused by texting drivers.
Moreover, the drivers who caused those accidents are interviewed. Their words and facial expressions convey how difficult it is to live with the guilt of knowing that you permanently injured or killed someone else with a momentary lapse in judgment.
Personalization and emotional appeals are the same messaging techniques that have made it socially unacceptable to drink and drive. Rules and laws can seem abstract, especially to teen drivers. In order to really get the message across, it is important to create a feeling of empathy in the viewer.
Hopefully, documentaries like Herzog's "One Second to the Next" will become standard viewing at high schools in California and across the nation. If you'd like to watch the documentary yourself or share it with someone else, the full version is available on YouTube.
Source: Santa Clara Valley Signal, "The tragic epidemic of distracted driving," Cokie and Steven V. Roberts, Sept. 3, 2013