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Friday, August 9, 2013

Hollywood Director Takes on Texting While Driving

As a toddler, Xzavier Davis-Bilbo loved to scramble around the house and yard. Nicknamed “X,” the boy imitated plays from his hometown Green Bay Packers. Then tragedy struck.

Walking across the street with his older sister, he was struck by an oncoming car and is now is paralyzed, living in a wheelchair, breathing through a ventilator. He was hit by a driver who was texting, her face so buried in her phone that she didn’t stop at the Stop sign, and was speeding, in a school zone.

“The worst thing that I can’t say to ‘X,’ which I used to be able to say all the time, is: ‘go in the yard and play,’t” said his mother, Valetta Bradford. “I can’t say that anymore because if we go play, we need to take the suction machine, we need to transfer him over to the ventilator for his chair. Before we can do anything, we need to do that first.”

His story, and his mother’s reflections, are included in a new documentary by Werner Herzog, a Hollywood director who has to his credit movies like “Grizzly Man” and “Jack Reacher.”

The documentary, called “From One Second to the Next,” explores the consequences of texting while driving, which the film says leads to 100,000 or more accidents a year.

The film, which had its premiere Thursday night in Los Angeles, is sponsored by the major mobile phone companies, AT&T, Sprint, Verizon and T-Mobile. Research shows that drivers who text face a significantly increased crash risk.

However, public safety advocates have been frustrated that motorists continue to text and drive at high rates despite polls that show they understand the risks. Public safety advocates say they hope that behavior will drop through a combination of tough laws and enforcement, coupled with public awareness campaigns, like this latest documentary. At the same time, researchers have expressed concern that mobile phone companies, even as they urge people to not text and drive, continue to glorify the idea of an “always-on” lifestyle that encourages people to constantly talk, text and multitask.