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Highway Hypnosis and Long Night Trips: Some Do's and Don't's

Photo by MK Hamilton on Unsplash
 

The experience known as highway hypnosis (or white line fever) causes many summer crashes, particularly late at night. Overextended travelers may find themselves falling asleep at the wheel with many miles to go. 
 

It might be their fault for not preparing for a long trip, but in truth, highway hypnosis happens about twenty minutes going into a long drive. Sleepiness can be an issue, but the more significant problem is that we built our highway system as a uniformly monotonous landscape. Seeing the same turnpike and off-ramp over and over again makes our oculomotor (eye-to-brain) system stagnant. Just like seeing a pocket watch tick back and forth and being hypnotized, the landscape itself and our lack of stimulation from outside sources can easily lull us to sleep. Some of the symptoms of highway hypnosis include:
 

  • Drowsiness

  • Heavy eyelids

  • Slowed reaction time

  • Inability to focus / foggy thoughts

  • Missing your freeway exit

  • A sudden moment where you can’t remember anything about the last several miles

  • Drifting into the next lane/driving onto the rumble strip

  • Blank expression/glassy-eyed stare
     

If you find yourself falling prey to highway hypnosis, here are some do’s and don’ts for how to handle the situation.
 

Don’t:
 

  • Caffeinate. It will help you momentarily but will up your stress levels, and the last thing you want to do is be sleepy or dulled when your body crashes from lack of caffeine.

  • Use cruise control. In the comedy film “National Lampoon’s Vacation,” Clark has the car on cruise control as they all drive off the road. When you’re losing concentration, cruise control isn’t your friend; it’s how you started an accident.
     

Do:
 

  • Fix your posture. Don’t be too comfortable in the driver’s seat-- be at Awake and Alert positioning.

  • Pull over someplace safe. If the spot is quiet enough and you feel safe, try leaning back your chair and having a nap. Consider a motel if you need sleep.

  • Have a chat. Tell a passenger what’s going on and ask them to talk to you without distracting you. Talk to someone on the phone if you can.

  • Roll down the window. The noise and the cool air will help you revive yourself.
     

We hope you’ll have a safe summer and urge you to take care during long highway drives. Don’t forget to bring your vehicle into Schultz Auto Repair if you need to get some maintenance done for your car, truck, van, SUV, family fleet, or work fleet of vehicles. We’re conveniently located at 5085 Southwestern Blvd., Hamburg, NY 14075, and we are open Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. See you soon!

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