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Have You Experienced Highway Hypnosis?

sleepy tired fatigued man driving car in traffic
Photo by: SIphotography • Thinkstock

You’re driving along. The road is clear the weather is good. You get to where you’re going and have no remembrance of the drive at all or how you got where you were going.

If that’s ever happened to you then you’ve experienced Highway Hypnosis or White Line Fever.

I personally like White Line Fever. Sound like something medical that I can more easily explain to Officer Friendly when I end up in the ditch for not paying attention.

I’m guessing everyone reading this has had this experience at one time or another. The conscience mind is taking a trip somewhere while the subconscious drives the vehicle.

When Was Highway Hypnosis First Discovered?

You’d have to go all the way back to 1921 to find the answer. At that time it was called “road hypnotism” in an article that year. Not a lot of highways in 1921, I guess.

You can think of it as driving in a trance while your gaze is on a fixed point in the distance. Much like watching the parlor trick hypnotist’s finger or swinging watch.

There have been documented studies that people can fall asleep with their eyes open, and the subconscious will continue to drive the car normally.

A little like the sleepwalking that many of us have experienced from time to time — usually in our youth.

Asleep At The Wheel Causes Accidents

While the term “asleep at the wheel” is often used to describe someone out of touch with reality or not able to grasp a concept, it could also explain a number of automobile accidents. Total or partial amnesia is not uncommon in those who experience highway hypnosis.

I used to drive a lot before I retired. My mind would program where I was going while I concentrated on other things.

When I arrived at my destination I often had no idea of what route I took to get there.

Driving and not concentrating on the task at hand would obviously decrease your reaction time when a potential accident is looming before you.

If asked what happened between home and the accident many people would be hard pressed to remember anything they saw along the way.

Some Final Thoughts

With all the driving I’ve done in my life it’s probably pretty amazing that over the 25 years here in Bozeman I’ve never gotten a traffic ticket or had an accident on any Montana street or highway.

There have been times I was way too tired to drive but somehow managed to get to where I was going. Was I asleep at the wheel?

I guess I’ll never know for sure.

If you see me coming toward you and my eyes are open don’t let that lull you into a false sense of safety.

I definitely need one of those self-stopping cars or the ones that tell you about drifting across the center line.

If you’re still conscious after reading this, comment below on your experience with highway hypnosis.

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