Highway hypnosis is a form of fatigued driving in which the motorist is “sleeping” with their eyes open. While the motorist’s brain functioning closely resembles that of a sleeping person, it is not identical. Unlike the sleeping driver who loses complete control of his car, the person suffering from highway hypnosis is capable of doing a poor job of driving down a road on autopilot. If such a person or any fatigued driver injures you in a car accident, seek the legal advice of Chattanooga car accident attorneys.
The Brain Activity of Highway Hypnosis
The driver experiencing highway hypnosis has no conscious awareness of his actions. Visual inputs from the eyes go to a part of the brain that oversees automatic muscle control. This brain region allows you to walk or ride a bike without conscious effort. Although this brain region is active, the cognitive or conscious part of the brain is switched off.
The driver may get into an accident or snap out of it because of an external noise or physical jarring. Afterwards, the driver has no memory of how he got to his present location. While a lot of driving is relegated to programmed reflexive muscle sequences, driving still requires an alert conscious mind to oversee the activity.
How Highway Hypnosis Occurs
This condition often occurs at night. The driver who needs sleep, forces himself to continue and may use caffeine to the point where it ceases to be effective. The driver’s reflexes and thinking slows down to the point that he must focus or fixate on highway lines to stay on the road. The repetitiveness of flashing highway lines and road/tire noise lulls him into a hypnotic state. The person has no awareness of slipping into highway hypnosis and therefore cannot on his own recognize and react to his symptoms. Only a companion can do this. Sometimes a noise, or the sharp jolt of a road bump or pothole may bring him back to consciousness.
How to Avoid Highway Hypnosis
- Get plenty of sleep.
- Don’t push yourself when feeling tired. Pull over to a safe resting area at the first signs of fatigue.
- Bring a traveling companion with you. Converse and allow him or her to take over the driving when you are feeling fatigued.
- Avoid fixating the eyes. Instead, make frequent scans of the road and your mirrors. Keep track of your traffic situation.
- Make frequent rest stops.
- Avoid driving during your normal sleeping hours.
- Keep the inside of the car cool.
- Chew gum. This is an old truck driving trick. However, don’t rely on it too much. Use it as a way to stay alert until you can get off the road.