If you have ever been behind the wheel for long periods of time, you may have experienced highway hypnosis. It is a phenomenon that causes you to go into a trance-like state while driving.
Highway hypnosis can affect a driver’s ability to safely respond to unexpected situations and hazardous conditions on the roadway, increasing the risk of being in a car crash. Whether you spend a lot of time driving or not, it is important to know the signs of highway hypnosis to protect yourself from harm.
Highway hypnosis cannot be used as a defense of negligent driving. If a driver claims he or she was suffering from highway hypnosis, he or she would still be found at fault if he or she did something negligent.
At Gordon & Partners, we have helped many car crash victims over the years pursue the maximum compensation possible for their injuries and damages. The initial consultation is free of charge and comes with no obligation to retain our services. If you have a valid claim, there are zero upfront fees.
What Exactly is Highway Hypnosis?
Highway hypnosis is a hypnotic or trance-like state. Staring straight ahead at the lines in the roadway can have a hypnotic effect. It is often compared to driving while drowsy or falling asleep behind the wheel except that a driver’s eyes remain open and he or she stays conscious.
Drivers who experience highway hypnosis operate and control their vehicles on autopilot. The drive may be routine and so ingrained that they have no conscious thought of what they are doing. Drivers may be able to get to their destination normally and safely, but they may have no recollection of doing so later.
A driver experiencing highway hypnosis is oftentimes unaware that it is happening until something causes him or her to snap out of it. Unfortunately, in some cases, that “something” could be a car crash.
How Does Highway Hypnosis Happen?
Highway hypnosis is most likely to happen to drivers commuting long distances on monotonous, straight roadways with few turns or stops and flat scenery. This includes truck drivers who spend extended periods on the road traveling day and night to meet deadlines picking up and dropping off cargo.
This phenomenon can also affect drivers who travel the same routes to and from work, school, or anywhere else each day. Experienced drivers who know their routes inside and out are more likely to enter a trance-like state and “zone out” for a short distance or even the entire drive.
Common Signs of Highway Hypnosis
You may not necessarily realize you are experiencing highway hypnosis until you snap out of it or when something unexpected happens. Some of the most common signs of highway hypnosis include:
- Metal fogginess
- Loss of concentration
- Dazed or dull feeling
- Wandering thoughts
- Slow reaction time
- Heavy eyelids
- Frequent blinking
If you suddenly realize that you have passed your exit or missed your turn, or you do not recall driving the last few miles, it is likely you were suffering from highway hypnosis. Other signs you may be in a trance-like state include catching yourself drifting into another lane or snapping out of it due to loud honking noises. A passenger in your vehicle may also notice you have a blank expression or a glassy-eyed stare while behind the wheel.
Highway Hypnosis and Car Crashes
Highway hypnosis can cause lapses in concentration, increasing the likelihood of a car crash. When parts of the brain are not alert or aware, it can reduce a driver’s reaction time to an unexpected situation.
For instance, if traffic suddenly comes to a full stop, a driver in a trance-like state may react too slowly or not react at all. The driver may slam into the back of a vehicle, possibly causing a multi-vehicle accident.
If there are red lights or stop signs, a driver experiencing highway hypnosis may run right through them without even realizing it and strike another vehicle. If there is a hazard on the roadway, a driver may also run over it and lose control of his or her vehicle and cause a car crash.
How Can I Avoid Highway Hypnosis?
There are certain things you can do while driving to try and avoid experiencing highway hypnosis:
- Take frequent breaks – This is especially important if you are behind the wheel for long periods of time or are planning on taking a lengthy trip. Be sure to get out of your vehicle and walk around as much as you can. Go for a walk or take a short nap to recharge before hitting the road again.
- Do not drive while sleepy – Although coffee and other caffeinated beverages could help increase alertness, it may not be enough to keep you entirely awake if you are feeling sleepy or drowsy.
- Drive during the day – The daylight may help you avoid highway hypnosis instead of driving in the dark or late at night when you would normally be getting ready for bed and going to sleep.
- Talk to any passengers – This can help keep your brain engaged. If you are driving alone, call someone to keep you focused or make plans to call a friend or loved one while on the road.
- Play loud or upbeat music – Do not listen to anything that can make you feel relaxed, sleepy or less focused, such as soft, slow music. You want music that can keep you energized on the road.
- Roll down the window – Fresh air can help you stay alert, particularly while driving at a high speed.
- Keep your eyes moving – Look into your side and rear-view mirrors every now and then. Staring at the road ahead for a long time can cause highway hypnosis without you even realizing it.
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