What Are The Symptoms Of Highway Hypnosis?
You’ve probably heard of the common term for highway hypnosis, white line fever. Highway hypnosis happens when we are driving a monotonous route, and our brain gradually slips into a semi-conscious autopilot state. After we have been driving in a hypnotized state, we can suddenly arrive at our destination safely with no recollection of having consciously driven there.
“Highway hypnosis, also known as white line fever, is an altered mental state in which a person can drive a car, truck, or other automobile great distances, responding to external events in the expected, safe, and correct manner with no recollection of having consciously done so”. – Weiten, Wayne (2003). Psychology Themes and Variations (6th ed.). Belmont, California: Wadsworth/Thomas Learning.
Highway hypnosis vs driver fatigue
In a highway hypnosis state, the brain takes over all the automatic tasks that are involved in driving the vehicle while our minds wander away to distant places. It’s different from driver fatigue because although the driver may feel a little drowsy, the brain is still acting in a state of automaticity that allows the driver to operate the vehicle safely under normal circumstances. With driver fatigue, the brain doesn’t have automaticity, as the body and brain fall into a sleep state while you drive.
WIth highway hypnosis, the subconscious mind takes over driving tasks, but with driver fatigue, that simply doesn’t happen. Driving tired can make us susceptible to highway hypnosis.
Is highway hipnosis dangerous?
When your brain is auto-piloting down the highway in a state of highway hypnosis, it’s pretty good at performing the little tasks that go into driving a vehicle.
However, when something ordinary pops up, like a moose making a poorly timed decision to cross the road, your highway hypnotized brain won’t be able to react with the speed and certainty that your fully present, conscious brain would. In the USA alone, more than 100,000 accidents have been attributed to highway hypnosis.
Here are 5 signs of highway hypnosis as well as what you can do to avoid it.
1. You are on a monotonous stretch of highway.
According to a 2003 study, if you are on a monotonous stretch of highway, you are more likely to fall into a state of highway hypnosis. Sometimes highway hypnosis can happen within 20 minutes on a monotonous road.
2. You are feeling dazed, dull, or drowsy.
If you are bored, tired, and/or having trouble keeping your eyelids open, it’s time to pull over and take a break. An RV has most of the amenities of home, so rest and relax as often as you need to.
3. Your thoughts are wandering.
If your thoughts are wandering to anywhere but the road you are driving, you may be in danger of highway hypnosis. It’s a good time to take a break, open a window, or put on a new playlist.
4. You don’t recall the drive to different points along your trip.
If you are arriving at points along your route, and you don’t recall driving there, you are already in a state of highway hypnosis. You need to take a good break and either have a rest or some light exercise.
5. You are unintentionally driving faster than usual.
Sometimes while in a state of highway hypnosis, we can become heavier on the gas pedal than we normally would be. You may check the speedometer and find you are unconsciously going way faster than you normally drive. The results can be disastrous.
Ways to reduce highway hypnosis
It’s important to always stay alert when we are driving, especially when driving a large RV or hauling a trailer. While the following tips may help to keep you alert as you drive, they can only go so far. Pull over safely and nap in the RV if you need to. Don’t nap in the front of the rig; always keep the front seats as your awake zone.
- Frequent breaks from driving
- Opening a window
- Drinking caffeinated beverages
- Talking or singing
- Loud, upbeat music or lively talk radio
- Turn off the cruise control
- Drive with an upright seat
For help mapping out your route for your next RV getaway, look no further than RV LIFE Trip Wizard. This online planning tool makes it easy to plan an RV-safe route. It can also locate rest areas, overnight RV parking, and other interesting sites along the way, all according to your travel preferences. Get RV LIFE Trip Wizard with its accompanying RV LIFE App, and start planning your adventure today!
- Healthline: Highway Hipnosis Signs & Symptoms
- Drowsy RV Drivers Are More Dangerous Than Drunk Drivers, Experts Say
- 5 Night Driving Safety Tips You Need To Know
Lynne lives, travels, and works full-time in a Forest-River R-Pod 180 with her 2-pointers, Jolene and Annabelle. Lynne has been an enthusiastic RVer for over 35 years. And then one day in 2019, she began full-time RVing as a lifestyle experiment. She quickly fell in love with the convenience, freedom and minimalist lifestyle offered by full-time RV living. Lynne is a professional writer and has been a professional dog trainer since 1995. You can read about her travel adventures on her R-Pod Adventure blog, R-podyssey at: http://www.rpodaventure.com
Tom G says
Plan to stop every 2-3 hours to stretch your legs and walk around. Don’t plan on driving 8-10 hours a day. Too much driving and you arrive at your campground after dark and tired when you may need to make maneuvering decisions and get settled in for the night.
As a rookie RV owner, I quickly learned that it is much more relaxing to arrive before dinner time, get settled in and have time to relax and get a good night’s sleep..
Lynne Fedorick says
Great tips Tom. Thank you!
The absolute best cure for highway hypnosis is eating sunflower seeds! Sounds crazy by give it a try – works miracles.
Lynne Fedorick says
Awesome Robert! Thank you!
Eating sunflower seeds is a great way to stay awake while driving. Getting off graveyard in the morning was brutal; I had trouble staying awake during the drive home. Eating sunflower seeds worked!
Prevent Highway Hypnosis……travel with a wife…. But, then, how does one deal with Wife Hypnosis??? The questions of life are many. 🙂 🙂 🙂
Mike Kane says
Another good thing is to continue to change focus. Don’t just stare out the front window. Check right outside mirror, left outside mirror, dash gauges, oncoming traffic, any electronic screens, tire pressure if you have an aftermarket tpms, etc. Switching what you are looking at every so often will help keep you aware and help with preventing zoning out…
I make a habit of checking all my gages, mirrors, road position, a d check on passengers every few minutes. Rembering to perform these tasks helps keep me alert.