If you have ever “zoned out” when driving down the highway, then you may have an understanding of what highway hypnosis is. For example, have you ever driven through town, perhaps somewhere you are familiar with, gotten to your destination and realized that you cannot recall the last few minutes of your drive? Maybe you just brush that off as routine driving, but the reality is that zoning out can occur in various ways for various reasons, and this can all be considered highway hypnosis.
Defining Highway Hypnosis
Highway hypnosis is brought on by the monotony of driving over longer distances. This monotony can slow down the brain and leave individuals less alert as they function on autopilot.
What does highway hypnosis feel like?
Everyone probably has different ideas of what highway hypnosis feels like for them, and most individuals who have driven for any length of time have experienced some form of this highway hypnosis. Some warning signs that individuals may notice that lead to highway hypnosis or indicate that a person is already in highway hypnosis include the following:
Mental fog or a loss of concentration
Feeling dull or dazed
Slow reaction times
Frequent blinking or heavy eyelids
Other signs that could indicate a person is experiencing highway hypnosis include an individual catching themselves drifting into another lane or onto the rumble strips on the side of the highway.
Highway hypnosis can occur for a variety of reasons, but most commonly results in those who are tired and operating a vehicle while fatigued. However, monotonous roadways, where individuals pass nothing visually stimulating, can also lead to highway hypnosis. Individuals who may be impaired by alcohol or drugs will be more likely to experience highway hypnosis, as will those using any type of prescription medication that causes drowsiness.
Highway Hypnosis Increases Crash Risks
Highway hypnosis can certainly lead to an increased risk of accidents. The drowsiness, mental fog, wandering thoughts, and slowed reaction times associated with highway hypnosis are also common among drivers impaired by alcohol or drugs. Even though there are no hard facts related to how many accidents are caused by highway hypnosis, you can be sure that this is a factor in many accidents on Texas roadways. If you’ve been injured by this phenomenon, please contact a Houston car accident attorney for legal advice.
Any individual affected by highway hypnosis can take various steps to help beat the monotony. First, the more time a person spends on a monotonous task, the more likely they are to switch into autopilot. When planning a trip over longer distances, we encourage drivers to allow themselves enough time to stop every hour or two so they can get out of their car and move around as much as possible.
Individuals can also talk to someone else in order to keep their brains engaged. If possible, drivers can get a little boost from caffeine, but please do not overdo the caffeine. Caffeine and other types of sugary drinks or foods can lead to alertness in the short term but cause a “crash” and lead to even more fatigue.
If you do have to plan a longer drive, we strongly encourage getting a good night of sleep the day before the drive. Make yourself a roadway playlist that will keep you engaged, or choose some good audiobooks or podcasts to listen to along the way. Do whatever you can to break the monotony and avoid highway hypnosis.