How to Prevent Highway Hypnosis (White Line Fever)

A phenomenon known as highway hypnosis is more common than you think, triggering drivers to “zone out” while they’re behind the wheel, even when they’re fully conscious.

Have you ever snapped back into reality after losing focus while someone spoke? Or, have you ever found yourself at the bottom of a page with no memory of what you just read? If so, you’ve experienced this trance like state at work.

Yet, it becomes much more real and risky when it happens in the middle of rush hour traffic. Today, we’re taking a look at what highway hypnosis entails and how you can avoid it.

What is Highway Hypnosis?

Also known as white line fever, this is a trance-like mental state that drivers can enter after being on the road for an extended period of time. In essence, you start to space out and focus on something other than your driving. All the while, you’re still subconsciously able to change lanes, use your turn signal, and perform other traffic functions safely.

It’s as though your body enters its rote-response mode, where your mind’s memory kicks in and takes over. In this way, it’s akin to riding a bike.

Once you learn the skill once, you don’t have to focus on every little movement every time you hop on. Instinct does its job and you take off successfully without trying. Likewise, when you drive with white line fever, you’re essentially driving on autopilot.

Comparisons to Drowsy Driving

It’s important to make one distinction: Though some experts once believed that highway hypnosis is related to drowsy driving, that isn’t the case.

Advanced research into the field of hypnotism has revealed that those who have experienced highway hypnosis are not asleep by any means. Rather, they’re hyper-focused and more in-tune with their subconscious response. This allows them to perform critical driving functions automatically, rather than intentionally.

On the other hand, drowsy drivers are cognitively impaired. Their reaction times are slow and they’re less aware of the cars around them. Even knowing these risks, 37% of drivers admit that they’ve fallen asleep behind the wheel at least once. In fact, drowsy driving is to blame for 6% of all crashes, including more than 20% of fatal crashes and 13% of severe injury crashes.

How Can You Avoid Highway Hypnosis?

Although drivers under highway hypnosis are usually able to maintain safe driving practices, it’s never a good idea to lose track of your surroundings while you’re on the road. Let’s take a look at a few of the ways you can stay awake, alert, and focused on what’s around you.

1. Don’t Drive During Your Sleeping Hours

No, this isn’t the same as driving while asleep. Still, being drowsy can trigger you into a state of highway hypnosis, even if your eyes never close. You’re also less likely to be alert in general during the hours you’re used to snoozing.

Another reason to only drive during the day? Dark scenery is monotonous! This makes it a lot easier for your brain to slide into autopilot, especially if it’s already fried from driving long hours beforehand.

Especially if you’re in the middle of a long trip, it’s tempting to try and beat the clock and cover some tracks overnight. However, it’s best to pull into a well-lit parking lot or a rest area and sleep as soon as you feel your body begin to shut down.

2. Keep Your Eyes Active

We’ve all been “stuck” before, with our eyes in a position we can’t seem to pull them away from. To avoid fixating and losing focus like this, try to keep your eyes open and moving as much as possible. While you’re at it, sit up straight to heighten your attention.

Check your mirrors often, and look side-to-side. In addition, read all of the signs around you, including exit signs, speed limit signs, and mile markers. Not only will you stay alert, but you’ll be better informed about your location.

3. Engage Your Passengers

Another way to how to avoid highway hypnosis and stay attentive while you drive? Talk to the passengers in the car with you! As long as the conversation isn’t so engrossing that you get distracted, this can be a great way to keep your mind active and observant.

4. Stop Every Few Hours

Again, it’s never worth it on a long drive to press on and keep driving even when you feel yourself falling asleep at the wheel. Try to stop every two to three hours to stretch your legs, use the bathroom, drink coffee and just reset.

This can keep you from getting so overwhelmed that you lose sight of what’s going on. If you can, try to switch drivers with someone else to make sure you don’t get too burned out.

5. Switch Up Your Route

Highway hypnosis most commonly occurs when you’re driving a route that you’re intimately familiar with, such as the roads you take to work. To avoid it, try to go a different way.

This will force you to focus on your actions and prevent you from slipping into automatic motions.

6. Lower the Temperature

Warm temperatures are cozy and comfortable. In fact, they’re too comfortable. To maintain your focus, keep it a little cooler in your car and roll the windows down if you need to.

7. Avoid Cruise Control

Cruise control can be a handy feature, but you’re that much more likely to fall into a trance if you let your motor vehicle do all the work. Avoid using it to make sure your mind doesn’t drift off.

Stay Safe and Alert on the Road

We all try to drive as safely as possible. However, our minds and bodies are powerful entities and can sometimes hinder our best efforts.

If you’ve been involved in a traffic violation or accident attributed to highway hypnosis, you can face a variety of consequences. These might include an auto insurance rate increase, a traffic ticket or a court-ordered defensive driving course.

Either way, we can help.

We offer one-hour and six-hour defensive driving courses designed to help drivers meet their requirements and get back on the road as quickly as possible. Find your state today to get started, and let’s connect!