Highway Hypnosis: Is It Dangerous?
written by/ June 8, 2021
Vacation season is finally here! Yet, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many Americans are opting for good ol’ fashioned RV-ing instead of flying.
Though the question remains: is it safer than flying? Well, corona-wise — it is! Accident-wise — it’s not!
We all know that driving while tired is extremely dangerous; just one less hour of sleep doubles your chances of having a road accident. Nevertheless, very little attention is placed on one peculiar phenomenon — highway hypnosis.
Highway hypnosis (or white line fever) is a trance-like state of consciousness that happens while staring at the monotonous road ahead of you. In essence, the dull trip makes your mind wander and you start driving “automatically” as if on autopilot.
That said, highway hypnosis is not the same as fatigued driving. In fact, researchers reveal that in a state of highway hypnosis a person is fully alert and more aware of their surroundings.
Therefore, you have nothing to fear if you can’t remember the last few miles while you were wide awake. The real danger, however, is falling asleep behind the wheel.
But, what can cause this extreme fatigue?
Well, one study suggests that car vibrations significantly diminish wakefulness levels.
Factor in the dull, monotonous highway, the fixed position of your head and eyes and you get the perfect recipe for disaster.
So, what can you do to prevent this?
- Sleep at least 7 hours before the trip — fatigue plays a huge role in alertness levels.
- Adjust your coffee/tea consumption to make yourself wide awake.
- Avoid alcohol a day or two before taking the driver’s seat as alcohol diminishes sleep quality and makes you feel more tired.
- Opt for natural sleep aids instead of prescription pills the day before; most sleeping pills have a lingering drowsiness effect.
- Correct your posture! Pick up your seat cushion, your camping pillow, and sit up straight.
- Eat lightly or even better — drive slightly hungry! A copious meal makes your blood pressure drop, making you more sleepy.
- Put on loud music or talk to a friend to keep your focus up.
- Get uncomfortable! It’s a lot harder to fall asleep if you feel cold. So, turn up your AC or open a window.
- Make a pit stop — changing scenery will make you more aware of your surroundings.