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What is highway hypnosis and why every driver needs to be aware of it

If you've ever arrived at your destination with no memory of driving there, you know the phenomenon.

What is highway hypnosis and why every driver needs to be aware of it
Representative Cover Image Source: Pexels | Markus Spiske

Have you ever driven from one point to another without realizing you've arrived? This could be highway hypnosis. Despite sounding strange, highway hypnosis is a common phenomenon often experienced by seasoned drivers. Some more often than others. A man (u/gullydon) took to Reddit and explained, "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." The post has gained popularity on the platform and garnered 67K upvotes with over 2K comments.

Representative Image Source: Pexels | photoGraph
Representative Image Source: Pexels | photoGraph

While some people might not even realize they have gone through such a thing, others acknowledge it as a common occurrence. It can be startling to realize you were driving without being fully present. This phenomenon usually occurs because the monotony of the road slows down your brain function and puts you on autopilot, as reported by Healthline. Once you return from your trance-like state, you might even wonder if you have been driving properly all this while. Other factors, such as inattention and sleepiness, can also contribute.

Thus, fatigue increases the likelihood of experiencing highway hypnosis, heightening its associated risks. Opinions vary on the accident risk associated with highway hypnosis.

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Pixabay
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Pixabay

Paul Watters of the Automobile Association in the UK told BBC, "It's a strange feeling. You're not necessarily inattentive, but you're in a slightly different state. I don't think it means you're going to have an accident, but it means you're not completely engaged in the task of driving, so we would advise members not to get distracted like this." Jim Horne of the Sleep Research Centre at Loughborough University explained that highway hypnosis is not like falling asleep but like reading a newspaper and not absorbing what you are reading fully. However, Joshua Maxwell, an ergonomics engineer at the Hyundai-Kia Technical Center in Michigan, told the outlet that highway hypnosis might slow down a person's reaction time, increasing the possibility of accidents.

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Pixabay
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Pixabay

However, if you are experiencing highway hypnosis due to being tired, there are ways to remedy it, per Healthline. You can take a break, have some caffeine, talk to the people in the car or play music. Rolling down the window or taking a new road might also help and so does turning off cruise control. It can also be prevented by getting enough sleep, a light meal, and an all-new playlist. While not necessarily dangerous, it's wise to prepare and stay fully alert while driving. This phenomenon is more likely on straightforward, easy-to-navigate roads. Hence, taking other preventive measures can help you avoid it. However, it is safe to say that it is quite normal to experience it.

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Stas Tsibro
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Stas Tsibro

Several Reddit users shared their own experiences with the phenomenon. u/sprucay wrote, "I've always thought it wasn't your subconscious, it was you. It's so boring and familiar your brain doesn't bother to remember it." u/maverick1ba expressed, "Honestly, I feel like my driving is better when I just stare off into space and take everything in with my periphery than when I actually focus directly in front of me." 

Image Source: Reddit | u/MonstersGrin
Image Source: Reddit | u/MonstersGrin
Image Source: Reddit | u/FeedTheCatPizza
Image Source: Reddit | u/FeedTheCatPizza

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