Have you ever arrived at a destination without knowing how you got there? White line fever or highway hypnosis is a dissociative condition in which someone experiences a hypnotic state that can leave a driver mentally detached and less aware. When a driver falls into an altered mental state through highway hypnosis, they can respond to events happening around them on the road but may be fully focused on something else.

The term highway hypnosis was coined by G.W Williams in 1963 and was built along the theories of Ernest Hilgard and built upon theories of hypnosis as an altered state of mind.

What are the Dangers of White Line Fever?

When you fall into highway hypnosis, there are several dangerous factors that you should be aware of. Highway hypnosis is a form of drowsy driving and can even be considered equally as dangerous as drunk driving. When you fall into a state of hypnosis behind the wheel, you are immediately putting yourself and other drivers in danger. Highway hypnosis can cause a driver to have a slower reaction time in the event of an unexpected stop or collision. In some cases, someone might merge a little too close to you and if the car in front of you slams on their brakes, your delayed reaction could mean life or death.

Technology and Highway Hypnosis

Luckily, an increase in drowsy driving awareness and the emergence of vehicle safety technologies have helped combat some of the dangers that come with highway hypnosis. Built-in systems such as the Attention Assist, Driver Alert Control (DAC) and the Driver Attention Alert (DAA) have been created by large car manufacturers to help drivers stay alert while behind the wheel. However, it still might not be enough to stop an accident.

What You Can Do To Avoid an Accident

If you experience any of the symptoms of highway hypnosis, it's advisable to stop and rest immediately. A quick power nap or a brisk 5-minute walk can make all the difference. According to Bellevue personal injury lawyer, Greg Colburn, here are a few ways to avoid highway hypnosis:

  • Get plenty of rest prior to your trip
  • Don't forget to take breaks between and stretch out your legs
  • Switch up your entertainment by having podcasts or music in a rotation
  • Keep the air flowing and avoid excessive heat exposure
  • Be cautious when using cruise control

One of the most important aspects of avoiding highway hypnosis is to actively make a conscious effort to be alert and aware while behind the wheel. Breathing exercises can also help your brain stay alert and refreshed.

A recent study conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that the percentage of crashes involving a drowsy driver is nearly eight times higher than federal estimates indicate. Drowsy driving is a precursor to highway hypnosis. AAA recommends that all drivers should not wait until their bodies signal warning signs of drowsiness. Before getting behind the wheel, drivers should get plenty of rest, avoid heavy foods and avoid medications that cause drowsiness or impairment.

Who Can Get Highway Hypnosis?

Long distance commercial truck drivers who travel very long distances are especially susceptible to falling into a state of hypnosis on the road. Signs of highway hypnosis can include muscle stiffness, drifting between lanes or rumble strips and a loss of recollection while traveling on the road. When planning a long distance trip, it is very important to take extra caution and remain alert at all times to avoid a serious or deadly collision.