The New York Times reported yesterday that the engineer operating the Metro-North Railroad train that derailed this past weekend claimed to have been dazed and zoned out in the moments before the derailment, suffering from “Highway Hypnosis”. “Highway Hypnosis” is a form of fatigued driving where drivers minds are lulled by the monotonous routines of driving and their attention wanders off and they are no longer fully engaged in safe driving and being aware of nearby hazards.
Locomotive engineers and commercial truck drivers can attest to the risk and dangers of being lulled into a zoned out dazed state when travelling a long boring stretch of road or rail line. In fact, the risks are so great with locomotives that most locomotives now have an alerter system that requires the engineer to actively press a button every so often. If the engineer fails to do so, an alarm sounds to alert the engineer; and, with some systems, the alerter system will even apply the brakes if an engineer fails to engage the alerter in time.
While various systems for monitoring and aiding driver alertness are starting to find their way into commercial truck cabs, most tractor-trailers still have no alerter systems in place. In our firm, we’ve handled numerous cases on behalf of victims who have been injured or killed as a result of commercial truck drivers driving while zoned out due to “Highway Hypnosis.”
Distracted and fatigued driving is every bit as dangerous as drunk driving. If you find yourself feeling drowsy or dazed while driving, please find the nearest safe and legal place to park your car and get some rest.