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Explained: What Is Highway Hypnosis, Flagged As Major Cause Of Road Accidents

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Highway hypnosis has emerged as a leading cause of road accidents.

Four members of two Surat-based families were killed in a road accident on Mumbai-Nagpur Samruddhi Expressway in Aurangabad on Wednesday evening. The Maharashtra Police said at a press conference that 39 people have lost their lives and 143 have been injured in accidents on the road, designed for high-speed vehicular traffic, since its launch in December 2022 – a worryingly high figure. Senior officers of the police force also said that one of the leading causes for so many accidents is highway hypnosis.

What is highway hypnosis?

Highway hypnosis, also called white line fever, is a phenomenon that causes a driver to go into a trance-like state while driving, according to Healthline.

The vehicle crosses several kilometres but the driver doesn’t have a clear memory of what happened. It is slightly different that sleepiness when your eyes become heavy and you doze off.

As per Tata AIG, the driver keeps driving, has absolute control over the steering, but pays no attention to anything that happens around them. It is also known as road hypnosis.

What causes highway hypnosis?

Simply put – inactivity. When we are driving in city, out concentration levels are usually high since there is bumper-to-bumper traffic, short rides and traffic signals, due to which we have to accelerate and stop the vehicle frequently. Our brain is filled with activity and is buzzing.

But on highways, the situation is different. On the long and empty stretch of road, there is minimal activity. The car keeps cruising in the same gear and the monotonous environment causes our active brain to switch off.

In such a scenario, the vehicle drifts away. It often happens that we emerge out of trance by the horn of a car, but sometimes people drive in auto mode without any recollection of time that can prove dangerous – even fatal.

It’s different from fatigued driving

One thing that differentiates the two is automaticity. In highway hypnosis, a driver experiences Automaticity – or the process of doing things automatically without actively thinking about the steps involved – but in fatigued driving, this is not the case.

In highway hypnosis, the subconscious mind can take over but in fatigued driving that is an unlikely thing. Therefore, it is more dangerous than highway hypnosis.

How to tackle highway hypnosis?

When a driver realises that symptoms of highway hypnosis has started taking over, there is a need to follow certain tips to increase alertness.

The first among them is taking a break. During a long drive, it is advisable to stop every few hours, depending on your driving stamina. During breaks, get out of the car and move around as much as possible.

Another way to break the monotony is to keep talking with fellow passengers, or use a hands-free device to call a friend. Drivers can also play some song on the car’s music system to keep the brain engaged.

Finally, it is advisable to drink coffee as it can help boost alertness.