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
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