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The how and why of highway hypnosis

Highway hypnosis has caused several accidents in India in the recent past. By understanding its causes and taking preventive steps, drivers can remain alert on long drives

Samidha Jain
Published: Jul 4, 2023 10:33:44 AM IST
Updated: Jul 4, 2023 10:43:23 AM IST

The how and why of highway hypnosisHighway hypnosis increases the likelihood of accidents. Image: Shutterstock

According to Maharashtra’s highway police, driving on the state’s Samruddhi Expressway, a six-lane and 701-km stretch, has become a major cause for concern: 88 people have died on the expressway in the past six months. This includes an incident on July 2, where a private bus collided with a divider and subsequently caught fire, resulting in 25 fatalities. These accidents are now being attributed to ‘highway hypnosis’.

Highway hypnosis, also referred to as ‘white-line fever’ or ‘driver's hypnosis’, is a psychological condition that can occur while driving for extended periods. Drivers enter a trance-like state or a diminished level of awareness, causing them to become less attentive to their surroundings and operate in a semi-automatic mode. Consequently, this mental state increases the likelihood of accidents.

As per officials, 39 fatal accidents have taken place on the Samruddhi Expressway since December 2022. To add to the this, 616 minor and major accidents, mostly caused by speeding, drivers dozing off, and tyre bursts, have also occurred on this expressway, inuring 656 people.

How does it happen?

Highway hypnosis commonly arises during uninterrupted driving, typically on long stretches of highways or expressways. The combination of a monotonous environment, steady vehicle speed, and unchanging scenery contributes to the onset of this condition. As a result, drivers may experience decreased attention, delayed reaction times, and compromised decision-making abilities.

Causes of highway hypnosis

Various factors can contribute to the development of highway hypnosis, such as monotonous environments, fatigue caused by long periods of driving without adequate rest or sleep, repetitive stimuli such as road markings, road signs, or even the sound of the vehicle engine, and the absence of engaging activities and conversations.

How to prevent it?

To mitigate the risks associated with highway hypnosis, drivers can take regular breaks to rest, stretch their muscles, and refresh their minds, minimise fatigue and monotony; stay alert and engaged; prioritise sufficient sleep before embarking on long trips; and engage in conversations, play energetic music, or use interactive devices like audiobooks or podcasts to keep their minds active.

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