What Highway Hypnosis Is And How To Avoid It

Have you ever zoned out while behind the wheel, even though you’re fully conscious? Then you likely experienced highway hypnosis. It may sound mystical, but this experience is common among drivers, especially truckers on long-haul routes, and can be extremely dangerous. Keep reading to learn more about highway hypnosis and how to avoid it. 

What is Highway Hypnosis?

Highway hypnosis, sometimes called white line fever, is a term used to describe the trance-like state a driver enters when they are not paying close attention to the road or their surroundings. Instead, they are spaced out and focusing on something other than driving, while still subconsciously performing driving maneuvers, such as changing lanes or using a turn signal.

Highway hypnosis happens most commonly to tired drivers, but monotonous roads also play a significant role in this phenomenon. Driving on a flat road with only one type of visual scenery for a long period of time causes the brain to depend less on retinal feedback (what you actually see) and more on extra-retinal feedback (mental prediction of what you’ll see). You may not always realize that highway hypnosis has taken over until you’ve snapped out of it.

Some warning signs include:

  • Sleepiness
  • Loss of concentration
  • Wandering thoughts
  • Feeling dazed
  • Slow reaction time
  • Heavy eyelids or frequent blinking 

How to Avoid Highway Hypnosis

Avoiding this occurrence is imperative for truckers’ safety and the safety of other motorists around them. You must take steps to prevent highway hypnosis when you head out on a long-haul route.

Follow these five steps to help you avoid highway hypnosis:

  1. Get Enough Sleep

As mentioned above, highway hypnosis occurs most commonly among tired drivers, so ensuring you get enough sleep before hitting the road will help lower your chances of zoning out while driving. Adults require around seven hours of sleep each night to function properly. 

  1. Take Frequent Breaks

The longer you spend driving, the greater the chances of your brain disengaging from what is happening. Take a break every hour or so when behind the wheel to help prevent fatigue. Getting out of your vehicle, stretching, and walking around will get your blood pumping and re-engage your brain with its surroundings. 

  1. Talk to Someone

Talking with someone helps the brain stay focused rather than drift off into daydreams. If you are driving with a partner, strike up a conversation or make a phone call from a hands-free device if you are alone. However, be mindful that talking on the phone, even hands-free, can also be a distraction, so if you notice that you’re losing focus on the road, end the call. If talking to someone else isn’t an option, talking or singing to yourself can also keep your mind engaged.

  1. Make an Environmental Change

Altering external stimuli can also help prevent the brain from switching off. If you feel yourself losing focus, make a change to your driving environment by opening the window, turning the heat down, adjusting your seating position, or changing the music or podcast you’re listening to. Avoid cab conditions that increase your chances of feeling sleepy, such as using a seat warmer or leaning your seat back.

  1. Skip Big Meals

Eating a large meal causes you to feel drowsy because your body is focusing its resources on breaking down the food. The more food you eat, the more energy goes to your digestive tract, so try to avoid eating a big meal before driving. Instead, have a light meal or snack to keep your energy levels up.

Learn Safe Driving Habits at HDS Truck Driving Institute

Highway hypnosis is just one of the many hazards truck drivers encounter while on the road. At HDS Truck Driving Institute, we teach our students safe driving habits and give them the tools to deal with any complications that may arise along their route. 

Call one of our advisors today to learn how to become a professional truck driver in as little as four weeks.