Highway Hypnosis and How it Can Lead to a Dangerous Crash

driving at night on a monotonous highwayHave you ever been driving and suddenly realized you zoned out for a while? Maybe you do not remember anything about the last few miles. If this realization does not scare you, it should. This phenomenon, known as highway hypnosis, is extremely dangerous and could quickly lead to a crash.

At Roden Law, we have seen crashes caused by all kinds of human errors, including conditions like highway hypnosis. We discuss this condition in the article below, including why all drivers are vulnerable to zoning out behind the wheel and what you can do to prevent it.

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What Is Highway Hypnosis?

When someone talks about “highway hypnosis” or “white-line fever,” they are referring to drivers who zone out or enter a trance-like state while driving. It is important to recognize that this is not the same thing as driving while tired or drowsy. However, both conditions can happen simultaneously.

When drivers experience highway hypnosis, they are in an altered state of mind. Their eyes are open, and they may not be nodding off. In this state, they are just operating on autopilot. Unfortunately, highway hypnosis is far more dangerous than it seems. Drivers zoned out in this way may not notice road hazards until it is too late.

How Highway Hypnosis Can Lead to a Dangerous Crash?

When people are experiencing highway hypnosis, they obviously see the road enough to stay in their lane. However, they do not see the details or have a mental awareness about what is happening around them.

Being in a hypnotic state of mind may cause drivers to miss critical road hazards until it is too late to avoid them. Drivers have a legal duty to remain alert when they are behind the wheel. Remaining focused on the road in this way helps drivers have more time to react to a dangerous situation. The difference between being involved in a crash and avoiding one often comes down to how quickly a driver reacts to the situation.

These are some of the critical scenarios drivers may miss while zoned out:

  • Pedestrians darting out into the road because they did not see them
  • Failing to yield the right of way because you did not see a red light or stop sign
  • Not seeing a deer in the road in time to avoid hitting it
  • Misreading a wrong-way sign and ending up in oncoming traffic
  • Drifting into another lane of traffic without realizing it right away
  • Driving into the back end of a vehicle in front of you
  • Exceeding posted speed limits without realizing it

Are All Drivers At Risk of Zoning Out Behind the Wheel?

Yes, zoning out can happen to any driver, regardless of experience or skill level. Factors that increase the risk of becoming disassociated with your surroundings include long periods of monotonous driving and fatigue. However, stress is another factor that increases the likelihood of zoning out behind the wheel.

Do Some Drivers Have a Higher Risk of Experiencing Highway Hypnosis?

Yes, certain drivers are more at risk of experiencing highway hypnosis. Factors that can increase the likelihood include:

  • Long-Distance Driving: Truck drivers and delivery drivers are much more prone to zoning out. In fact, any drivers who take long road trips or driver for extended periods of time are at risk.
  • Fatigued Driving: Individuals who are tired or sleep-deprived are more susceptible to zoning out while driving.
  • Shift Work: People who work irregular hours or night shifts may experience disrupted sleep patterns, increasing their risk.
  • Inexperience: New drivers might not yet have the coping mechanisms to stay alert during long drives.
  • Stress and Distraction: Drivers under stress or those who are easily distracted may find it harder to maintain focus over long distances.

Understanding these risk factors and warning signs are key steps to reduce the risk of zoning out while driving.

How Can You Prevent Highway Hypnosis?

There are several measures drivers can take to prevent the risk of zoning out or experiencing white line fever, such as:

  • Getting plenty of rest and hydrating properly before a long road trip
  • Taking regular breaks throughout the trip
  • Stopping to take a rest if you find yourself getting sleepy
  • Staying hydrated throughout the road trip
  • Maintaining good sleep habits as a career truck driver or during any road trip
  • Bringing another driver along on road trips and switching every couple of hours

What If Highway Hypnosis Sneaks Up On You While Driving?

Drivers should not continue driving if they are having trouble focusing or staying awake. It is better to pull over to a safe area and rest for awhile before getting back on the road.

Get familiar with the warning signs of highway hypnosis. These are some of the most common symptoms to watch for:

  • Blinking or heavy eyelids
  • Trouble focusing or concentrating on the road
  • Trouble staying awake
  • Feeling dazed or foggy-headed
  • Having wandering thoughts
  • Reacting slower

Am I Liable for Damages If I Zone Out and Cause a Crash?

Yes, unfortunately drivers do not get a free pass if they experience highway hypnosis and end up causing a crash. This is why it is important to recognize the warning signs of white line fever or fatigue and get off the road until you can drive safely.

If someone zones out and causes a crash that injures you, he or she will likely be liable for your damages.

Injured By Another Person’s Careless Driving?

Our knowledgeable Savannah auto crash attorneys have extensive experience managing car accident cases for victims injured by other drivers. While we cannot change what has happened, we are prepared to fight for the full compensation you deserve.

Roden Law has a strong history of success – we have recovered millions for injured victims in Savannah, and we are ready to help you.

Call to get started today. Deadlines apply, so we strongly encourage you to call sooner, rather than later. There are no upfront costs if we take your case. Since we take injury cases on contingency, we only get paid if you do.

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