If you've ever driven your car over a stretch of highway without having any memory of the experience, then you have experienced highway hypnosis. If you have ever been startled by the rumble strip on the highway shoulder without recalling how your car got there, then again, highway hypnosis could be to blame.
Long monotonous driving combined with fatigue bring on this trance-like state. Part of your brain is automatically doing the driving, while the conscious mind is disconnected from the visual and sound inputs from the road. When in this state, you can slip into brief periods when you are literally sleeping with your eyes open. Communication between parts of the brain slow down, while other parts briefly go "offline." There is no conscious awareness of your entering into this state and it takes an input from the outside world such as someone shouting at you to snap you out of it.
This state of mind and other forms of drowsy driving cause thousands of road accidents every year. Avoid becoming a victim yourself with the following tips.
Get Plenty of Sleep the Night Before Your Trip
There is no substitute for a good night's sleep. When the brain is sleep deprived, it only responds to urgent emergencies. Otherwise, it shuts itself down. Long monotonous driving is not perceived by the brain as an emergency.
Don't Drive When You Normally Sleep
The brain follows a wake/sleep cycle, in which it is programmed to be awake during daylight hours and asleep at night. Use this cycle to your advantage rather than fighting against it by driving when you are supposed to be sleeping.
Avoid Fixating Your Attention
Don't fixate on the car in front, the highway dividing line or on the road ahead. Fixation promotes highway hypnosis, especially at night. Safe driving requires an awareness of the road situation around you. Dutifully checking your mirrors and the ongoing traffic situation keeps your mind active and alert. Always keep your eyes moving.
Sit Up Straight
A good posture promotes mental alertness. Leaning the seat back or slouching is a semi-reclined position, which is conducive to sleep.
Adjust Your Driving Environment
Keep the temperature cool inside your car. This promotes alertness, while warmth and heat causes drowsiness. Depending on the time of year, this is done either with your air conditioner, your heater setting or opening the window.
Break Up Your Driving with Rest Stops
Take advantage of rest areas even when you aren't feeling tired. Getting out of the car, stretching your legs and doing non-driving activities helps to reset the brain.
Avoiding highway hypnosis and other forms of driving fatigue requires effort on your part before you reach that state. Don't wait until highway hypnosis takes hold because by then, it may be too late.
Drive with safety in mind. Call Marietta Insurance Services for more information on auto insurance.