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What You Need to Know About the Real Dangers of Highway Hypnosis

Drew Duncan
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Partner at Zimmer, Duncan and Cole, LLP

Highway hypnosis is a frightening phenomenon that can result in a person causing a catastrophic accident without even knowing what he is doing. Also known as “white line fever,” highway hypnosis occurs when a person goes into a trance-like state while driving. This is often caused by the monotony of the road. A part of the driver's brain is conscious enough to operate his vehicle, but most of his brain is focused somewhere else. The person may not have any memory of where he has been driving or how he got where he is. It is a form of distracted driving and can easily lead to drowsy driving where the motorist could fall asleep at the wheel.

Five Causes of Highway Hypnosis

Drivers often experience this dangerous condition while driving on the highway for long periods of time. However, people can go into a semi-conscious autopilot on busy city streets too. Common causes of highway hypnosis include:

  1. Monotony of driving
  2. Driver fatigue and boredom
  3. Unchanging scenery, roads, and driving experience
  4. Long, straight highways with few changes in roadway conditions
  5. Lack of driver stimulation and attentiveness

When drivers are zoned out with highway hypnosis, their brains cannot process the potentially dangerous driving conditions around them and their reaction times are slower. This could cause a driver to slam into the vehicle in front of him, fail to avoid another unsafe driver, or veer off the road with no evidence of steering or attempts to brake.

How to Prevent Highway Hypnosis

If drivers feel themselves drifting into unconscious driving, they must take steps to stay alert to avoid causing a crash. Ways to prevent highway hypnosis include:

  • Take a break after 90 minutes of driving and do something stimulating like jogging around a rest area.
  • If possible, switch drivers on long trips.
  • Bring a passenger along and talk about stimulating topics.
  • Do not drive during the hours of normal sleep.
  • Get at least six hours of sleep the night before driving.
  • Avoid eating a big meal right before driving.
  • Open the windows and let fresh air circulate in the car.
  • Monitor the vehicle’s mirror and instrument panel.
  • Play mental games.
  • Pull over and rest if feeling drowsy.

Did a driver suffering from highway hypnosis cause your crash? Our experienced legal team is here to explain your legal options and the compensation you could be entitled to. Call us at 888-733-2992 to schedule a free consultation.


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