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How Can Seasonal Affective Disorder Cause an Auto Accident?

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a mood disorder that usually occurs during the winter months. In the United States alone, approximately 11 million people suffer from this unique form of depression. While SAD can have an impact on many aspects of your life, it could also impact your driving abilities in a number of ways, which in turn could make you liable in the event of an automobile accident.

Common SAD Symptoms

There are several symptoms that are commonly associated with SAD. These include

  • sluggishness and overall fatigue
  • problems with focus and concentration
  • sudden changes in eating habits
  • loss of interest in regular hobbies
  • constant feeling of sadness
  • sleep deprivation and/or a tendency to oversleep

Many researchers believe that these symptoms are triggered by a lack of adequate sunlight during the winter months. These symptoms may be more apparent if you happen to live in the far-north regions of the United States, where the earth's axial tilt and orientation to the sun during the winter often results in shorter periods of sunlight.

How SAD Could Affect Your Driving

It may be hard to believe that what many people dismiss as "a case of the winter blues" could potentially lead to a serious auto accident. However, many of the symptoms commonly associated with SAD could have a number of dangerous consequences when it comes to your driving abilities:

  • Constant fatigue can create a slower response to rapidly changing road conditions, making it less likely that you'll react to and successfully avoid sudden obstacles and obstructions.
  • Disruptions in your normal sleep pattern caused by SAD could make you too drowsy to drive. They could even cause you to fall asleep at the wheel.
  • An inability to maintain your focus or concentration can also make it harder to pay attention to the road and other motorists. This could result in an accident brought on by inattentive and distracted driving.
  • Chronic moodiness can also cause you to react poorly to other motorists' actions and mistakes, which could potentially place you and your fellow motorists in danger.

What to Do If You're Involved in an Accident Due to SAD Symptoms

Despite the fact that SAD is widely acknowledged as a medically recognized condition, you may still be found at fault for any auto accident that occurs due to an associated symptom. The other party could argue your responsibility for the crash in spite of your medical condition, which could make you legally vulnerable if the other party decides to sue for damages. Even in a single-vehicle accident, it could prove rather difficult to receive due compensation for your injuries.

The best thing to do if you are involved in an accident caused by your SAD symptoms is to consult with your personal injury or auto accident attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney may be able to reduce your liability for the accident and lessen the likelihood of a suit brought by the other party.

How to Alleviate SAD Symptoms

The best way to prevent SAD from affecting your driving is by alleviating many of the symptoms associated with the disorder. Here are a few ways you can lessen some of the symptoms you're suffering:

  • Engage in outdoor exercise—Regular physical activity can help overcome some of the symptoms of SAD and other forms of depression, especially when combined with regular exposure to sunshine. Outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, and swimming are ideal outdoor activities for alleviating SAD symptoms.
  • Start a healthier diet—Paying attention to what you eat can also have an effect on your personal outlook. Excess amounts of foods loaded with sugar and preservatives often exacerbate SAD symptoms. Moving towards a healthier diet can help reduce certain symptoms such as sluggishness and fatigue.
  • Engage in more social interaction—Being around friends, family and loved ones not only reduces stress, but it also reduces feelings of loneliness and other symptoms associated with SAD.

Most importantly, you'll want to consult with your doctor if you find yourself suffering from SAD symptoms, especially if it's getting in the way of your driving and other normal activities.

SAD symptoms can not only impact your driving, but they also lead to increased liability in the event of an accident and higher insurance rates afterward. Learning how to deal with SAD can not only help your overall well-being, but it can also help you remain a safe driver.