Highway hypnosis is a trance-like state where drivers will respond to road traffic without any memory of having done so.
The term first appeared around 1921 as “road hypnotism”. Later analyses changed the term to “highway hypnosis,” made popular by an article from Griffith Williams in 1963. According to experts, this condition is another extension of “automaticity,” where people can perform complex tasks without thinking about them at all (writing, knitting, etc.).
Highway hypnosis is theorized to occur because driving can be dull. Many recorded occasions of highway hypnosis occur on open stretches of road. In these places, the only thing to look at may be the long, unending stripes separating lanes on the road. This can lead to a form of highway hypnosis.
Also, we tend to drive when we’re sleepy. According to The National Sleep Foundation, at least 1 in 4 Americans drive drowsy a few days a month. This greatly increases the chance of highway hypnosis.
Other names for highway hypnosis include white line fever and driving without attention mode (DWAM).
How to Prevent Highway Hypnosis
Highway hypnosis puts you and others in serious risk. This condition is too close to actually falling asleep at the wheel, which accounts for almost 1,000 deaths in 2014 alone.
Drinking coffee can only help so much. If you are suffering highway hypnosis regularly, help break the cycle with the following:
Drive during the day
According to researchers at UCLA, sunlight releases hypocretin, which helps you stay awake. Try to keep your driving relegated to daylight hours to get the most hypocretin into your system.
Pull over and walk around
Contrary to what anyone may say, getting there is not as important as your safety. If you find yourself nodding off, pull off the road as soon as you can and get out of your car.
Walk around a gas station, an open field, or whatever is around. Physical activity can get the blood pumping, which can improve your energy levels.
Get enough sleep
If you sleep more when you’re not driving, then you’ll be less sleepy when you’re driving. It’s common sense, but sometimes you just need a reminder.