Everything You Need To Know About Highway Hypnosis

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Legally reviewed by Alex Uriarte on June 3, 2022 Alex Uriarte is a member of the 1-800-Injured network.

Have you ever arrived at a destination and realized that you have no recollection of driving there? If so, you may have experienced highway hypnosis, a very real and very dangerous phenomenon that many drivers experience and a common type of distraction that can lead to serious or fatal accidents.

What Is Highway Hypnosis?

Highway hypnosis is a trance-like state that can occur when driving for long periods of time. It’s marked by a sense of detachment from the surroundings and sometimes drowsiness or sleepiness. Many drivers have experienced highway hypnosis at some point, and for some, it can be a dangerous condition.

What Causes Highway Hypnosis?

There are a few different factors that can contribute to highway hypnosis. Some include:

The Monotony of the Surroundings

When driving on a long, straight stretch of highway, the lack of visual stimulation can cause the mind to wander. The rhythmic flashing of the highway lines can also lull you into a state of hypnosis that is commonly referred to as “white line fever.”


If you’re not engaged in the act of driving, it’s easy to let your mind drift off. While many people find that their minds drift while they are driving, highway hypnosis can occur even if you’re trying to pay attention to the road.


Drowsiness can lead to highway hypnosis, as can falling asleep at the wheel. Much like other states of altered consciousness, such as intoxication from alcohol or other drugs, highway hypnosis dulls a driver’s reflexes and can cause them to fail to react to danger.


Though the terms “stress” and “hypnosis” don’t typically go together, stress can actually be a trigger for highway hypnosis. When we’re stressed, our minds are more likely to wander, and we may pay less attention to our surroundings.

How To Avoid Highway Hypnosis

If you find yourself in a highway hypnosis state, it’s important to take steps to snap out of it. This means pulling over and taking a break, if possible. It’s also important to stay hydrated and well-rested, as fatigue can be a major factor in causing highway hypnosis. If you’re prone to highway hypnosis, it’s also a good idea to avoid driving for long periods of time or break up your journey into smaller segments.

There are a few things you can do to avoid or address highway hypnosis:

Take Breaks

If you’re driving for a long period of time, make sure to take breaks every few hours. Get out of the car and walk around, and try to avoid driving late at night when you’re likely to be tired. If you find that you are struggling to keep your eyes open, the safest thing to do is to find a rest area to pull into and close your eyes for 15-30 minutes.

Stay Alert

If you start to feel drowsy, make sure to pull over and rest. Drink coffee or energy drinks if you need to, but don’t try to push through when you’re tired. Remember that caffeine and other stimulants can help give you a boost, but if you are too tired, they will have little to no effect other than give you a false sense of confidence about your ability to drive safely.

Pay Attention

This may seem obvious, but it’s important to focus on your driving and not let your mind wander. If you find that you are not able to stay focused on the road, this is a major red flag that you are suffering from any number of issues such as fatigue, boredom, or stress. If this is the case, it’s important to take a break as soon as possible.

The Signs Of Highway Hypnosis

Highway hypnosis can be dangerous because it can lead to accidents. It’s important to be aware of the signs of highway hypnosis and take steps to avoid it.

Some of the signs that you may be experiencing highway hypnosis include:

Daydreaming or Hallucinations

If you are starting to daydream or see things that are not really there, this is a sign that you are in a highway hypnosis state and are a danger to yourself and everyone else on the road.

Nodding Off

It’s a terrifying experience to find yourself nodding off or falling asleep while driving. This is obviously extremely dangerous and is a major sign that you need to take a break.

Difficulty Keeping Your Eyes Open

If it is increasingly difficult to keep your eyes open or focused on the road, this is a sign that you are suffering from highway hypnosis and that you should pull over to take a rest and stretch your legs.

Drifting Out Of Your Lane

If you find yourself veering out of your lane or into oncoming traffic, this is a major sign that you are in danger of causing an accident.

Missing Exits or Turns

Missing exits or turns is a sign that you are not paying attention to your surroundings or that your brain is struggling to keep up with basic information like familiar turns or GPS commands that you normally would be able to respond to without thinking.

Failure To Brake In Time

Suppose you find yourself not braking in time or not reacting to hazards. In that case, this is a major sign that you are in danger of causing an accident because your reaction times are slowed, and you will not be able to respond to sudden hazards or changes to driving conditions.

If you start to experience any of these signs, it’s important to take a break from driving. Pull over at the next rest stop and take a nap, or switch drivers if you’re with someone else. Taking a break will help you avoid highway hypnosis and stay safe on the road. Remember: a 30-minute nap will set you back 30 minutes, but falling asleep and causing a car accident can cause injury — or death. For your safety and the safety of everyone around you, don’t ignore your body’s struggle to stay present and alert.

What To Do If You Are In An Accident With a Driver Who Was Suffering From Highway Hypnosis

If you or someone you love has been in an accident with a driver who was suffering from highway hypnosis, it’s important to seek legal help. 1-800-Injured is an attorney and medical referral service. We can connect you with a personal injury lawyer who is ready to help you fight for the compensation you deserve. Call us today for a free consultation.