What is highway hypnosis (and how do you prevent it)?

If you’re like a lot of other Americans, you’re going to rack up some miles on the highway this winter as you make the long drive to your parent’s or grandparent’s home for the holidays.

Just be careful that you don’t let highway hypnosis take over. Highway hypnosis is the term that’s used when drivers end up sort of operating on “automatic” instead of being actively engaged in the process. That both puts the driver who has zoned out in danger and increases the chances of a wreck with another vehicle.

How do you stop yourself from zoning out on a long drive?

Some of these may appear basic, but they definitely deserve repeating – especially during a stressful holiday season. Try these tips to keep highway hypnosis at bay:

  • Aim for a good night’s sleep before the drive. You’re more likely to let your mind wander and fall prey to highway hypnosis when you’re already somnambulant. An alert mind is always easier to keep focused.
  • Schedule rest breaks along the way. There’s no prize for getting to your destination the fastest, so build some extra time into your trip so that you can stop for coffee, a quick bite to eat and change to refresh.
  • Talk to yourself or your companions. While you certainly don’t want to let your conversation become a distraction, talking to your passengers periodically on the trip can help you avoid falling into a trance. If nobody is with you, occasionally remarking out loud about some step in the journey or reminding yourself verbally to take breaks can suffice.

If you ever found yourself ending a journey without being able to clearly recall the trip, you may have experienced this yourself a time or two – and that may certainly make you sympathetic to another driver whose mind wandered while they were on a long trip. When you’re injured, however, you have to take the appropriate steps to protect your legal right to fair compensation for your losses.