Why Is Highway Hypnosis Dangerous?

April 18, 2023 Vehicle Wrecks

Have you ever driven somewhere without realizing how you got there? Have you ever taken a trip and not remembered parts along the way? If this has happened to you, you may have experienced highway hypnosis, a potentially dangerous condition.

What Does Highway Hypnosis Feel Like?

Some people describe the feeling of highway hypnosis as being in a dream-like state, where they are not fully aware of their surroundings and are only partially aware of their actions. They may feel like they are on autopilot and  not fully in control of their vehicle.

Other common symptoms of highway hypnosis include:

  • Drowsiness and fatigue
  • Lack of focus and attention
  • Difficulty remembering the drive
  • Difficulty recalling specific details about the drive
  • A feeling of detachment from the environment.

If you are experiencing these symptoms while driving, it is important to pull over and take a break to rest and stretch. Continuing to drive while in a state of highway hypnosis can be very dangerous and increase the risk of a collision.

What Are Some of the Dangers of Highway Hypnosis?

Highway hypnosis, also known as “white line fever,” is a trance-like state that can occur when a person is driving long distances on a highway. It is dangerous because it can cause the driver to lose focus and become less attentive to their surroundings, leading to accidents.

The following are some of the risks associated with highway hypnosis and how highway hypnosis could cause a collision:

  • Loss of awareness: The driver may become so focused on the road ahead that they fail to notice other vehicles or hazards in their immediate surroundings.
  • Decreased reaction time: The driver may be slower to react to changes in traffic or road conditions because they are not fully alert and engaged.
  • Poor decision-making: The driver may make poor decisions, such as changing lanes without looking or failing to signal, because they are not fully aware of their actions.

It is important for drivers to be aware of the risks associated with highway hypnosis and to take steps to prevent it. This can include taking breaks to rest and stretch, avoiding driving for long periods without a break, and staying alert and focused while behind the wheel.

Drivers who experience highway hypnosis are effectively operating their two-ton vehicles on autopilot. The basic driving tasks are so ingrained that during highway hypnosis a person drives without conscious thought of what they are doing.

They may be able to get from point A to point B safely, but if something unexpected happens on the roadway that requires active thinking and a quick response, it can lead to disastrous consequences. For example, if cars suddenly stop or a pedestrian crosses the road, a driver may not react at all or they may react too slowly, emphasizing the critical need for expert guidance from Pedestrian accident attorney. If there are red lights or stop signs, the driver may run right through them.

As you can see, if a person isn’t driving consciously, with their mind fully engaged on the task, it can lead to deadly injury accidents.

Why Does Highway Hypnosis Happen?

Researchers say that highway hypnosis occurs because of automaticity. In simple terms, automaticity is when we have learned something so well that we can do it automatically, or without actively thinking about the steps or processes involved.

While highway hypnosis is sometimes classified as a type of distracted driving, it is different because drivers don’t consciously know they are doing it. A distracted driver chooses to text on their cell phone or eat while behind the wheel. They can also choose to stop engaging in distracting behavior.

A person experiencing highway hypnosis isn’t aware that it is happening until something causes them to snap out of it. Unfortunately, in some cases, that “something” may be an accident.

What Is the Major Cause of Highway Hypnosis?

Highway hypnosis is most likely to happen to drivers traveling long distances on monotonous, straight roadways that have few turns and other attention-grabbing features. It is also called white-line fever because the unending highway lines may help to entrance drivers. Highway hypnosis is referred to in scientific circles as driving without attention mode or driving without awareness.

Highway hypnosis can also affect people who travel the same routes to work, school, or elsewhere day after day. When experienced drivers know their routes so well that they don’t have to consciously think about driving, their minds can drift and they can be lulled into a hypnotic state.

Research shows that fatigued or drowsy drivers are more prone to highway hypnosis. But highway hypnosis isn’t the same as drowsy driving. Drowsy drivers may shut their eyes and fall asleep, becoming unconscious behind the wheel and losing control of the vehicle.

The eyes of drivers experiencing highway hypnosis remain open and they stay conscious but, in a trance-like state. If an obstacle appears on the roadway, they may not be aware of it, or react too slowly and crash. If nothing unexpected happens during the drive, they may safely arrive where they are going but not remember getting there.

Unfortunately, highway hypnosis is a common condition. Any driver can experience it, including drivers of cars and other passenger vehicles. Long-haul commercial truckers, who may need legal representation from experienced lawyers for truck accidents , can fall victim to it, leading to catastrophic crashes. The condition has even been reported by freight and passenger train operators.

What’s the Difference Between Highway Hypnosis and Automatism?

Highway hypnosis and automatism are similar in that they both refer to a trance-like state that can occur while driving. However, there are some key differences between the two.

Highway hypnosis is a lack of awareness that can occur when a person is driving long distances on a highway. It is often caused by monotony and fatigue, as previously discussed, and can lead to a lack of focus and attention to one’s surroundings.

Automatism, on the other hand, is a defense in criminal law that can be used to excuse certain behaviors that do not  result from conscious decision-making. Texas law refers to automatism as involuntary conduct, and it is typically used in cases where the accused was not fully aware of their actions due to factors such as sleepwalking, taking an intoxicant, or a medical condition.

In both cases, the individual is not fully aware of their actions and may be at an increased risk of causing harm to themselves or others. However, automatism’s legal implications differ from those of highway hypnosis.  Automatism can be used in criminal cases such as driving while intoxicated, whereas highway hypnosis is not a legally recognized defense in automobile accidents.

How Do You Avoid Highway Hypnosis?

The following are several things you can do to try and avoid highway hypnosis:

  • Don’t drive if you haven’t gotten enough sleep or are otherwise feeling drowsy. Even if you drink coffee or another caffeinated drink, it may not be enough to keep you fully alert on a long trip.
  • Take regular breaks when going on lengthy trips. Get out of the car and walk around if it is safe to do so in the location where you’ve stopped.
  • Switch drivers on long road trips. If there is more than one licensed driver in the car, take turns behind the wheel.
  • Talk to your passengers if you have any, but be sure not to become so caught up in the conversation that you are distracted from the road.
  • Play loud and energetic music. Soft music may put you into a relaxed state that can help lead to highway hypnosis.
  • Open the window to let in fresh air.  More oxygen can wake up your brain and alert you to your surroundings.
  • Don’t stare ahead for long periods. Instead, keep your eyes moving by looking into your side and rear-view mirrors and noticing traffic, street signs, and other things around you.
  • Drive during daylight hours, as light may help prevent highway hypnosis. Don’t drive during periods when you would normally be sleeping.

By being aware of what highway hypnosis is and working to avoid it, you can potentially prevent causing an accident and injuring other people, or worse. If you cause a car crash you may be sued in court.

If you were hurt in an accident caused by another driver that may have been due to highway hypnosis or another reason, you may be able to get compensation for your injuries. Victims of car accidents caused by negligence may be able to get paid for doctor bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages.

Should you find yourself in either situation, it’s wise to speak with a knowledgeable Texas car accident attorney. (Here at Terry Bryant, we only represent plaintiffs – not defendants.)

Contact Our Experienced Houston Car Accident Lawyers

When you’ve been in a crash, the car accident attorneys at Terry Bryant Accident & Injury Law can review your circumstances and advise you about your legal options. For over 35 years, our Houston law firm has advocated for people involved in injury and fatality car accidents.

Call us now at 713-973-8888 or toll-free 1 (800) 444-5000 for your free and confidential consultation with our Houston-based legal team.

Attorney Terry Bryant

Attorney Terry BryantTerry Bryant is Board Certified in personal injury trial law, which means his extensive knowledge of the law has been recognized by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, setting him apart from many other injury attorneys. The 22 years he spent as a Municipal Judge, Spring Valley Village, TX also provides him keen insight into the Texas court system. That experience also helps shape his perspective on personal injury cases and how they might resolve. This unique insight benefits his clients. [ Attorney Bio ]

Table of Contents