'I'm very glad I did this'
Laws regarding texting and driving are uneven. In most states, the practice is banned, but the punishments vary greatly.
In "From One Second to the Next," the Vermont driver who hurt Debbie received a 30-day jail term and some community service; her insurance company paid $50,000, though Debbie's medical bills topped $1 million.
Herzog hopes the film prompts stronger legislation, but he's bluntly realistic about the possibilities. "What's more important than legislation is awareness," he said. "You can't legislate stupidity."
Awareness, at least, is high, particularly thanks to the director. The New York Times, referencing the film, ran an editorial on texting and driving Thursday; a broad range of media outlets including Fast Company, Slate, the Huffington Post and Gizmodo have featured the documentary in articles. Grantland's Steven Hyden called it "the greatest and most disturbing driver's ed movie of all time."
Herzog, whose films generally fare better with critics than the box office, seems a little dazed at the attention.
"It has shown that real filmmaking somehow connects to an unbelievable amount of people in a very quick period of time," he said. "It's going through the roof. I'm very glad I did this."
But it's the idea of reaching even one young driver that really moves him. "One single accident less, and I have done the right thing," he said.
He mentions an e-mail he received from a 15-year-old girl who watched "From One Second to the Next" and immediately had a talk with her mother.
"(She wrote,) 'I sat my mother down and told her, you are texting and driving. You are not going to do that anymore. Not when you take me to school,' " he said. "And the mother stopped it. So the signals are good."