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Early morning: you wake up, do your morning routine, get out of the house, walk to the car, unlock it … and the next moment, you’re already at your destination, getting down to business. How did you get here? Whom did you see on the road? How many turns did you make? There is no answer; you simply do not remember. Has that ever happened to you? If so, then you probably have been a victim of highway hypnosis .
Driving without attention
Highway hypnosis, also known as driving without attention mode (DWAM), is a mental state in which a person can drive for long distances while being absolutely unaware of the surroundings and doing the driving unconsciously. Often highway hypnosis is accompanied by lack of sleep or tiredness.
What’s interesting is that highway hypnosis is not the same as driving while tired or sleep deprived : you don’t feel drowsy and your brain is fully functional. It is also not the same as daydreaming, when a person’s contact with reality is blurred and partially replaced by a visionary fantasy. When we’re highway hypnotized, we still perform all the needed tasks and definitely don’t experience any illusions.
Why does this happen?
There is no exact answer why it occurs to people, but there are some theories about why it may happen and who is likely to be affected by hypnosis.
The phenomenon isn’t new. Back in 1957, engineers designed the Indiana Toll Road with curves every two miles or so , trying to solve the problem and keep drivers engaged with managing the road curves. Apparently, it didn’t bring have much affect on highway hypnosis and proved that it is in only the driver’s hands to keep her/himself alert and attentive.
How can we avoid highway hypnosis?
- Try to avoid driving during your normal sleeping hours
- Don’t try to drive too far in one day
- Keep your eyes moving and check your rear-view and side mirrors often
- Look at all the road signs and traffic around you
- Talk to your passengers, if you have any
- Stop every hour or two for refreshment and/or exercise
- Keep the car temperature cool with plenty of fresh air circulating in the car
- Don’t eat a heavy meal before you set out