Highway Hypnosis – A Dangerous Driving Condition That Could Cause a Fort Worth Car Crash

long highway at night

Have you ever driven somewhere and forgotten some portion of the trip? Have you ever missed an exit and not realized it until several minutes later?

These are all signs you were experiencing a condition known as highway hypnosis or white line fever. This has happened to many drivers at one time or another, and while some of these drivers avoid a collision, others are not so lucky.

Anderson & Cummings’ Fort Worth auto accident lawyers explain what drivers need to know about highway hypnosis, including common symptoms and risk factors. We also discuss what victims of highway hypnosis crashes should know about legal options.

Call today to schedule your free legal consultation: (817) 920-9000. No upfront costs.

What Is Highway Hypnosis/White Line Fever?

Highway hypnosis is a trance-like state where drivers are not conscious of their actions. Even though they are still physically operating the vehicle, it is almost like they are on autopilot. This trance-like state slows reaction time because drivers’ minds are not fully engaged in what they are doing.

Drivers often fall into highway hypnosis when they are behind the wheel for a prolonged period, particularly on familiar routes or roads with repetitive scenery. Exhaustion is certainly a factor, but the monotony and the moving white lines of the road make it harder for drivers to remain fully aware of their actions.

Are There Common Highway Hypnosis Symptoms To Watch for?

If you do any of the things listed below, you are likely experiencing a bout of highway hypnosis. You should probably get off the road as soon as possible to rest or have someone else drive for the rest of your trip.

  • Missing exits or signs: One of the first signs of highway hypnosis is passing by a turn or exit or not noticing road signs or traffic signals.
  • Suddenly realizing you do not remember the last few miles: Realizing you cannot recall the last few minutes or miles of driving suggests you are not as mentally engaged as you should be.
  • Getting jolted back to full consciousness: Being jolted back to full consciousness by a noise, movement or even the realization that your mind has wandered is a common symptom of highway hypnosis.
  • Slower reaction time: Delayed response to traffic signals, sudden stops or other unexpected events on the road are incredibly dangerous.
  • Frequent blinking: Struggling to keep your eyes open may precede you falling into a trance-like state.
  • Daydreaming: Finding yourself lost in thought and unable to maintain focus on driving is a clear indicator that you are mentally detached.
  • Tailgating other cars: Following other vehicles too closely without realizing it indicates a lapse in spatial awareness and judgment.
  • Struggling to concentrate: Mental fog means you are not fully engaged with the task of driving.
  • Fatigue: Feeling unusually tired or lethargic while driving, even without physical exertion, suggests your mind is not fully alert.
  • Drifting out of your lane: Struggling to stay in your lane can cause you to snap out of your highway hypnosis.

It is vital to know these symptoms so you can detect them early before you do something reckless and get into a crash with another vehicle.

Why Do Drivers Fall Into Highway Hypnosis?

Highway hypnosis typically happens during long road trips, at night or while you are on a familiar route home.

Monotonous Routes

Monotonous drives can lull you into a state of reduced alertness. The absence of engaging scenery or significant traffic at night can cause you to lose focus. Conversely, driving on busy city streets or in heavy traffic tends to keep drivers more engaged.

Familiar Routes

Doing the same thing over and over can dull the senses, making you less consciously aware of what is happening. The act of driving on the same route becomes so routine that conscious attention to the road diminishes.

Driving at Night

Nighttime driving, particularly over extended periods significantly increases the likelihood of zoning out. Commercial truckers, facing long hours on the road, especially at night, have a higher risk of experiencing highway hypnosis.

Recognizing these risk factors is one of the first steps in combating highway hypnosis. By staying informed and vigilant, drivers can better anticipate and counteract highway hypnosis.

Additional Risk Factors for Falling Into a Trance Behind the Wheel

There are additional risk factors that can make some people more likely to get hypnotized by the road:

  • Working late or on odd shifts: People who work late, such as shift workers who work a nighttime or graveyard shift, are at greater risk of highway hypnosis. This is especially during the wintertime, when it is more common to drive home in the dark.
  • Lack of sleep: Conditions like sleep apnea or chronic fatigue syndrome can make it harder for people to get the restful sleep they need. This can cause significant fatigue during the daytime.
  • Medication side effects: Some medications may make you feel drowsy and struggle to concentrate. This includes prescription drugs and over-the-counter drugs.

Is Highway Hypnosis a Defense for a Negligent Driver?

In short, no, drivers cannot claim highway hypnosis as a defense from liability for a collision. Drivers are legally obligated to follow traffic laws and take reasonable steps to ensure their safety and the safety of others on the road. This duty includes recognizing when they are too fatigued to continue driving and taking appropriate action, such as pulling off the road to rest.

At Anderson & Cummings, our experienced attorneys know how to identify and prove driver negligence, such as highway hypnosis. For instance, we can investigate and look for reasons why the driver may have been too tired to operate the vehicle. Maybe he or she was working a late shift or was coming home from a long road trip.

Contact Us To Discuss Taking Legal Action for Your Collision

Have you been injured by a negligent driver, such as one who was experiencing highway hypnosis?

We help crash victims in the Fort Worth area secure compensation for their medical care and other damages at no upfront cost.

We have secured more than $100 million on behalf of our clients and our partners are board-certified in personal injury trial law.

Give us a call today to learn more about the benefits of hiring a lawyer: (817) 920-9000.

*These are actual dollar amounts paid to clients after the deduction of attorney fees and expenses.


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