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

The Indian roads have improved massively over the years. The Indian government is adding hundreds of kilometres of roads every day, which is improving the situation of the roads. The authorities are adding expressways and highways every day, which has made travelling throughout the country much easier and smoother. However, with the improved roads create a different kind of problem that can be extremely dangerous for road users. Even National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) says Highway Hypnosis is one of the most dangerous things and can lead to accidents. Here is how it is extremely dangerous.

Highway Hypnosis

Highway hypnosis is a state of mind that is experienced by car or truck drivers while driving over long distances. This phenomenon happens only on extremely smooth and traffic-free roads. The driver feels like “sleeping with eyes wide open” while operating the vehicle and the accelerator. It can lead to high-speed accidents and is the reason behind many such accidents.

This sounds extremely scary and it sure is very scary too. There are many drivers who drive over long distances and they say that they don’t have any memory of the journey has been and how did they complete the long drive. The brain is a complex thing and while driving over long distances, the brain takes over the things like steering and without any traffic on the road, the brain does not actively participate in controlling the steering and the accelerator. The comfortable seat of car, quiet environment, a favourite song in the background and monotonous roads without a corner makes the brain go into a trance-like effect. It can go on for hours or minutes depending on the road.

What can highway hypnosis do?

Whenever a person experiences highway hypnosis, the active brain starts to slow down and automates the processes. It is like the non-decision making part of the brain is controlling the steering wheel, the accelerator and the whole car. It can lead to high-speed accidents because of delayed reactions. By the time, one comes back to consciousness and the driver may just freeze or fail to act in time. Since this happens on the smooth, traffic-free highways, the driver gets very less time or no time to react.

NHAI conducted several studies on NH2, which passes through West Bengal on the same. The study was done between Barakpur and Dakuni, which are one of the straightest and smoothest roads in the country. The study revealed that about 60% of the accidents cause on the newly made highways and the reason behind them is highway hypnosis. The study was done a few years ago and it was a wake-up call for the authorities and the motorists.

How can you prevent highway hypnosis?

It is difficult to know when you enter the highway hypnosis but there are a few ways that can be used to avoid the situation.

  • Breaks. Take frequent breaks on the highway when you’re driving for a long time. A break every 90 minutes will keep your concentration level high and will keep you alert on the road.
  • Avoid driving in the graveyard hours when the body is used to sleep. Driving in such hours can make you fall asleep on the wheel easily.
  • Drinking highly caffeinated products like Red Bull will make you feel less tired but once the caffeine affects goes away, the body becomes dehydrated and feels more tired. The best way to work around this is to take a short nap.
  • If you’re feeling sleepy, stop the car on the side and sleep. If you cannot do that, turn off the AC, crack open the windows and make yourself uncomfortable. The body cannot fall asleep easily when uncomfortable.
  • If you think the roads are becoming boring and monotonous, pull over, park the car, play a game, walk around, or check your social media platforms. It will bring your attention back to the road in a snap.

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