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. In this state, the driver’s conscious mind is apparently fully focused elsewhere, while seemingly still processing the information needed to drive safely. Highway hypnosis is a manifestation of the common process of automaticity.
In simple words, Highway Hypnosis can be explained as a situation where you zone out while driving and do not have a clear memory of what happened. Partial or complete amnesia related to the time spent driving under highway hypnosis can develop for the driver involved. It is something that almost all the drivers experience during long, uninterrupted drives. This happens to most experienced drivers including the truck drivers, who spend most of their time on the highways. It is extremely dangerous and if you’re not aware of the situation, it can even lead to high-speed accidents.
Signs & Symptoms –
Some warning signs that might be noticed after drive over –
• loss of concentration or mental fogginess
• wandering thoughts
• a dull or dazed feeling
• slow reaction time
• heavy eyelids or frequent blinking
Another person in the car with you might also notice you have a blank expression or glassy-eyed stare.
If you suddenly realize you’ve just passed your freeway exit or you can’t remember anything about the last several miles, you’ve probably experienced highway hypnosis.
Everything is so new when we first start driving. We get used to the brakes in the car, are hyper-aware of the traffic lights, and keep two hands on the wheel. But over time, through practice and repetition, driving becomes second nature.
Highway hypnosis happens when that second nature takes over and our brains switch from processing our surroundings to a hypnotic state of practicing the behavior of driving without even thinking about the actions taken while driving.
When a driver goes through the highway hypnosis, the active part of the brain starts to shut down since it does not have to work much. It starts saving energy and automates the process of controlling the steering wheel and the accelerator. It is just like your hands and leg is controlling the vehicle without your conscious. However, if an emergency situation happens and you need to apply the brakes, by the time your brain realises, it becomes too late. This is how most high-speed accidents occur on the highways.
Difference between Highway Hypnosis & Fatigue Driving –
• In Highway Hypnosis, you experience Automaticity but in Fatigued Driving, you are over tired.
• In Fatigued Driving, your reaction time to a change in the scenario can be a lot more than in Highway Hypnosis. It simply means that you are less aware of the potential dangers in a Fatigued Driving state.
• The trance-like state in Highway Hypnosis is mainly due to monotony but in case of Fatigued Driving, it is usually due to loss of awareness.
• There are chances of Velocitation while you are experiencing Highway Hypnosis. It is less probable in the case of Fatigued Driving. Velocitation is a state when you are unaware of the speed at which you are driving the car leading to an increase in the vehicle’s speed which can prove dangerous. Like Highway Hypnosis, Velocitation is also triggered by monotony.
It is always better to be in full control over yourself while driving. While Highway Hypnosis is potentially less dangerous than Fatigued Driving, one must make a conscious decision to avoid it and stay alert while behind the steering wheel. This is necessary for everyone’s safety and well-being.
Here’s are some ways to prevent Highway Hypnosis:
• Get at least 7-9 hours of sleep every night.
• Take a break every 90 minutes or when tired or and consider switching drivers if you’re in the car with someone else who can drive.
• Drink coffee or other caffeinated drinks. Caffeine blocks receptors in your brain from uptaking a sleep chemical called Adenosine (4), helping keep you awake and alert.
• Take a different route. Paying less attention is more common when you’re driving routes that you often take, so by taking a different route home it will force encourage you to be more aware of the new unfamiliar roads, cars and signs.
• Drive during the day when possible. Driving at night can be a lot more monotonous and therefore easier for your brain to slip into autopilot. Driving in the day will likely keep you awake and more aware interesting surroundings.
• Keep it cool. You’re more awake and alert if the air inside the car is cooler, so keep the aircon on during the summer and try not to use too much of the heater during winter.
• Sit up straight. Good posture can help keep you more alert and prevent you from drifting off.
• Don’t use cruise control. Cruise control can make it a lot more comfortable to drive but it can also give you more of an excuse to drift off and not focus on driving.
• Keep checking the rear-view mirrors to awaken your mind.
• Listen to different soundtracks to make yourself more attentive.
• Stay hydrated to prevent yourself getting in to monotonous state.
• Don’t overeat while driving.
• Avoid alcohol.
For more informative articles on such psychological states and other health related issues, please visit our website www.santripty.com and also feel free with our experienced health professionals.