What’s ‘Highway Hypnosis’, & how it can affect anyone: We explain

The condition of Indian roads over the years have improved immensely over the years. With hundreds of kilometres of new stretches getting added daily including the expressways and tolled roads, driving over long distances has become much smoother in recent times. However, since these new expressways and highways are designed for high-speed traffic, they are mostly straight. But why are they dangerous and why NHAI says that this can be dangerous? Because of the highway hypnosis.

What is highway hypnosis?

Highway hypnosis is a state of mind that is experienced by the driver while driving over the long distances. This causes when the routes are very smooth and are relatively traffic-free. It is something similar to “sleeping with your eyes wide open, while your body continues to hold the steering wheel and operate the accelerator without realising.”

It may sound very scary because it sure is. This happens to many without realising and there are a lot of stories out there where the drivers can be heard saying that they have no recollection of what they saw through the journey or how they did the journey. The highway hypnosis can happen to people who are driving alone the most. While you may not have realised it but if you go the highways often, you must have gone through a mild version of the highway hypnosis.

There are various factors that can cause the trance-like factor to the mind. This includes comfortable driving conditions, sealed cabin, quiet environment, and monotonous road without turns or corners. With the new highways and expressways in India, this phenomena is becoming common and there are a lot of reasons on why you should be worried.

What can highway hypnosis do?

When the person experiences highway hypnosis, the brain activity slows down drastically. The trance-like situation increases the reaction time by a lot and it can cause major accidents on the highways. Delayed or late reactions can extremely dangerous and the driver may fail to act when needed on the highways. Since vehicles move at a fast pace on the highways, things happen quite quickly and delayed reactions can make everything go downside.

National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) conducted studies on NH2 in West Bengal. The study was done between the stretches of Barakpur and Dankuni and on NH6 between Kharagpur and Dankuni. The study revealed that 60% of accidents caused on this newly made, super smooth highway was due to highway hypnosis. This study was done a few years back but it sure is a wakeup call on how everyone should be aware of this on the long highways.

Can you prevent highway hypnosis?

Yes, with a few steps, the effects of highway hypnosis can be avoided. Here are a few steps that can be taken to avoid highway hypnosis.

  • Take frequent breaks. A short break to stretch your legs every 90 mins will keep your concentration levels high.
  • Avoid driving in the hours when your body is used to sleeping. Driving in later hours or early morning can be dangerous.
  • High caffeinated products like Red Bull will push away your fatigue but once the effect of caffeine goes away, your body will suffer the same level of tiredness. The solution is a quick nap. Park the vehicle on the roadside, turn on the hazards and doze off.
  • If you’re feeling sleepy, open the windows. Feel the sun, the air or the rain. Becoming uncomfortable in the car will keep your sleep away.
  • If you feel that the route is becoming monotonous, pull over, play a game on your phone, talk to someone or just walk around!