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Understanding Highway Hypnosis and Ways to Avoid It

Team AckoJan 17, 2024

Sometimes, people are lost in their own world. They lose track of time. This might be okay if the person is sitting at home. However, this can be hazardous if the person is driving on an expressway. It can be a huge risk not only to the driver and the passengers of the vehicle but also to others on the road. Highway Hypnosis is a trance-like state faced by drivers while driving. Read ahead to know more about the phenomenon, what causes it, and ways to avoid it.




What Do You Mean by Highway Hypnosis?

In simple words, Highway Hypnosis can be explained as a situation where you zone out while driving and do not have a clear memory of what happened. Here’s an example – a person is driving on an expressway without any traffic during the night. The scenery is monotonous. Slowly, the driver drifts away in a trance. When the driver comes out of it, he has covered a few kilometres but has no recollection of what happened during that period.

What Causes Highway Hypnosis?

When you are driving a car during the day time while leaving your home to reach the office, your concentration levels are usually high. You probably have had a sound sleep, eaten breakfast and had some tea or coffee. There is music playing in the car and you are trying to find out if you should take a different route because of the traffic. Your brain is flooded with activity. It is buzzing.

Now, consider this. It’s night. You are away from the city in the countryside and driving for a few hours listening to repetitive music. You are waiting to reach your destination, have dinner and fall asleep on your cosy bed. For the last few kilometres, there is minimal activity on the road. The setting also doesn’t change much. You are driving in the same gear and the car is cruising. It is monotonous and your active brain tends to switch off.

Your brain’s activity is less and you tend to drift away but you keep driving. After ten minutes, a truck passes your car and honks. As a result, you emerge out of that trance. You are suddenly alert and notice the road ahead, and realize that you have missed the right turn that you were supposed to take. This can happen because of Highway Hypnosis where you drive in an auto mode without any recollection of time.

In the first case when you were driving in the morning, your brain was active and different parts of the brain were communicating well with each other consciously. However, in the second case, during night time, parts of the brain were not communicating well and replicating a sleep-like scenario. However, in Highway Hypnosis you are not sleeping but functioning in a state of Automaticity. You are performing an activity (driving) without being conscious of it.

Difference Between Highway Hypnosis and Fatigued Driving:

At the outset, Highway Hypnosis and Fatigued Driving can seem similar. Fatigue can be one of the reasons for Highway Hypnosis but it usually seeps in due to monotony. However, there is a fundamental difference – Automaticity.

In Highway Hypnosis, you are experiencing Automaticity but in Fatigued Driving, you are not. In Highway Hypnosis, the subconscious mind can take over but in Fatigued Driving that is an unlikely thing. Therefore, Fatigued Driving is more dangerous than Highway Hypnosis.

In Fatigued Driving, your reaction time to a change in the scenario can be a lot more than in Highway Hypnosis. You are less aware of the potential dangers in a Fatigued Driving state. The trance-like state in Highway Hypnosis is mainly due to monotony but in case of Fatigued Driving, it is usually due to loss of awareness.

Fatigued Driving must be avoided at all costs. It can lead to a catastrophe. Avoid driving if you are feeling drowsy or too tired. You can gauge Fatigued Driving symptoms before sitting on the driver’s seat but Highway Hypnosis takes place once you are driving.

There are chances of Velocitation while you are experiencing Highway Hypnosis. It is less probable in the case of Fatigued Driving. Velocitation is a state when you are unaware of the speed at which you are driving the car leading to an increase in the vehicle’s speed which can prove dangerous. Like Highway Hypnosis, Velocitation is also triggered by monotony.

Also, read: Simple Tips and a Buying Guide to Find the Right Car

Steps You Can Take to Avoid Highway Hypnosis:

It is always better to be in full control while driving. While Highway Hypnosis is potentially less dangerous than Fatigued Driving, one must make a conscious decision to avoid it and stay alert while behind the steering wheel. This is necessary for everyone’s safety and well-being.

Automaticity and your subconscious mind might be able to track things for you but remember – driving is a conscious activity. Listed below are some steps you can take to make sure you remain fully active while driving and avoid Highway Hypnosis.

Here’s how to stop Highway Hypnosis:

  • Sleep well before a long journey.

  • Don’t drive continuously, take breaks every two hours.

  • Have a cup of tea or coffee to stay alert.

  • Try to cover most of the distance during the day if it is a long trip.

  • Maintain a good driving posture throughout the journey.

  • Keep checking the rear-view mirrors.

  • Listen to different soundtracks.

  • Stay hydrated.

  • Don’t overeat.

  • Avoid alcohol.

Also, read: Car Maintenance Tips for Beginners

Key Takeaways About Highway Hypnosis:

Here are major takeaways related to Highway Hypnosis:

  • It takes place when a driver does not practice conscious driving.

  • It occurs due to monotony in the driving environment.

  • It is a result of Automaticity.

  • It is different from Fatigued Driving.

  • You can avoid it by keeping yourself active, attentive, and alert.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Here’s a list of some frequently asked questions related to the phenomenon.



Can Highway Hypnosis lead to a car accident?

Yes, it can cause car accidents. This is because the driver might take a longer time to react to a change in the immediate environment in a state of Highway Hypnosis as compared to driving entirely consciously.

Which is more dangerous, Highway Hypnosis or Fatigued Driving?

Both situations are dangerous and can lead to accidents. However, between the two, Fatigued Driving is capable of causing much more harm than Highway Hypnosis.

Is damage due to Highway Hypnosis covered by a car insurance policy?

If you have a Comprehensive car insurance policy, you are covered against Own Damage, Personal Accident, and Third-party Liability. Therefore, an unfortunate case of a car accident induced by Highway Hypnosis can be covered by a car insurance policy based on its terms and conditions.

How soon can one drift into Highway Hypnosis while driving a car?

Highway Hypnosis is caused by monotony, which is a subjective matter. For some, monotony can set in 15 minutes while for some it might take an hour.

Can talking with other people seated in the car prevent Highway Hypnosis?

Yes, speaking with other people in the car can prevent it but you need to make sure that you do not lose your focus on the road while chatting.


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