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04/06/22   |   By

Highway Hypnosis: Dangers of Distracted Driving

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For many of us, traveling by car is a daily occurrence. Be it to work, to school, or to run errands, the average American spends up to one hour a day behind the wheel. While a short drive to work may not make us fatigued, longer journeys can leave drivers in a state of highway hypnosis, barely remembering any part of a drive until they reach the final destination.

While this may not seem like a bad thing, highway hypnosis, or white line fever, is a very dangerous form of distracted driving. If you are involved in a collision with a distracted driver in Washington, DC, Virginia, or Maryland, the car accident lawyers at Regan Zambri Long are here to help.

What Is Highway Hypnosis?

Highway hypnosis, otherwise known as white line fever, is believed to be the hypnotic state drivers may find themselves in when driving a long distance without remembering the vast majority of the commute. It can result in delayed communication between the brain and other parts of the body, resulting in accidents and injury.

The term highway hypnosis was given by Griffith Wynne Williams and is characterized by the monotony and overall visual fixation a driver experiences on highways. This does not result in sleeping behind the wheel as in some cases, the driver may still react appropriately to changes in the road and other drivers, but the memory of the drive is not there. However, the act of driving on autopilot can become fatal when the driver is also fatigued, or under the influence.

What Causes Highway Hypnosis?

Highway hypnosis is very common among long-haul truck drivers as they may spend up to 14 hours a day driving according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Because of this, the driver may be highly trained and this autonomous action may not be alarming at all, but, when the driver is fatigued, this can lead to fatalities.

Conversely, the untrained driver who finds themselves the victim of white line fever may not be as well-prepared to drive in a state of auto-pilot, resulting in devastating consequences.

However, sleepy or fatigued driving is not the only cause of highway hypnosis. Other causes of white line fever include:

  • Monotonous landscapes and roadways
  • Lack of retinal feedback between eyes and brain
  • Tiredness because of medication use

It is important to note that driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol and lack of sleep increase the dangers of white line fever.

What Are the Symptoms of Highway Hypnosis?

The symptoms of highway hypnosis are similar to those of drowsy driving. Common signs include:

  • Becoming glassy-eyedman staring over steering wheel driving car - Highway Hypnosis
  • Delayed reaction time
  • Lack of concentration or becoming dazed
  • Daydreaming
  • Swerving between lanes
  • Missing exits or roads

If you are experiencing highway hypnosis, you may also experience the feeling of “snapping out of it” which can be a jarring experience that may also impact your ability to control the vehicle.

What Are the Dangers of Highway Hypnosis?

Much like other forms of distracted driving, highway hypnosis can result in catastrophic injuries and damage. For example, highway hypnosis is believed to be blamed for a 2013 commuter train derailment in New York City that led to the death of four people.

That being said, highway hypnosis isn’t just a danger to larger vehicles like trains and commercial trucks, passenger vehicle drivers may also experience white line fever on extended road trips.

Because highway hypnosis is a form of drowsy driving, similar dangers do exist. These include:

  • Slower Reaction Time: Studies have shown that being tired has caused similar reaction delays as being drunk.
  • Impaired Judgment: Because of fatigue, you may have trouble seeing or retaining focus, making you unable to make sound decisions behind the wheel.
  • Road Rage: Lack of sleep has proven to be a key factor in why a person may experience road rage.
  • Drifting: While drifting may not seem like a huge deal, sometimes swerving between lanes can result in car accidents because the space between cars is not sufficient, or the drifting was not slow, but rather in a jerking motion, which can be fatal.
  • Loss of Control: It is easy for highway hypnosis to result in falling asleep behind the wheel, which can result in casualties and mass property damage.

How to Avoid Highway Hypnosis and Distracted Driving

Preventing white line fever may be easier said than done, especially for truck drivers. However, there are steps you can take to avoid highway hypnosis and other forms of distracted driving.

Get Enough Sleep

It is estimated that 1 in 25 adult drivers (aged 18 years or older) have fallen asleep while driving. Drowsy driving results in thousands of crashes and injuries and hundreds of deaths each year. To prevent this, drivers can make sure they get a restful night’s sleep, and in the event they do not, delay travel time until enough rest has been achieved.

Take Breaks

One of the leading factors of highway hypnosis is monotony on the roadways with minimal turns and limited scenery changes. Because of this, drivers should take ample breaks to walk around, stretch, and get out of the vehicle.

A little bit of physical activity will help you raise your heart rate, increase blood flow, and keep you alert when you do get back on the road.

Listen to Music with More Energy

On a nice summer day, it’s not uncommon to see drivers listening to loud music with the windows down. There is actually some science behind why the type of music you listen to can impact your driving.

Studies show that listening to music with 60 to 80 beats per minute helps provide the ultimate balance in keeping alert while also maintaining a strong heartbeat to boost reaction times. This includes songs like “Billionaire” by Travie McCoy and Bruno Mars.

Know that music with too much energy can have the opposite effect, reducing reaction time.

Switch Drivers

Depending on how you are traveling and with whom, you can also switch drivers to help avoid highway hypnosis. This allows the initial driver to get up and stretch and provides an opportunity to recharge before the next leg of the journey.

In cases where switching drivers is not possible, be sure to pay attention to your body’s needs. If you are too tired to continue driving, it may be time to pull over.

Injured By a Distracted Driver? Call Regan Zambri Long.

Christopher ReganWe may think of distracted driving as only when someone is texting while driving, or engaging in a physical activity that takes away attention from the roadway. However, distracted driving can occur when you are mentally not engaged in the act of driving.

Unfortunately, highway hypnosis and other cognitive distractions behind the wheel can be difficult to prove in court. At Regan Zambri Long, we represent drivers who are injured in collisions by distracted drivers in DC, VA, and MD and we can do the same for you.

Our car accident attorneys can help you collect economic damages and depending on the severity of your injuries and the specific facts of the case, non-economic damages to help you move forward from this traumatic experience.

For a no-obligation, free consultation, contact the car accident lawyers of Regan Zambri Long by calling (202) 960-4596 or by contacting us online.

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