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How Drivers Can Avoid Highway Hypnosis

Have you ever been driving but did not remember much about the drive? Maybe you weaved in your lane or do not even remember seeing a green light? 

If so, you were likely experiencing highway hypnosis. Did you know that in 2020, there were 663 deaths from car crashes related to drowsy driving

If you or a loved one were injured in a car accident caused by a driver who was suffering from highway hypnosis, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact the Norfolk, Virginia car accident attorneys at Montagna Law to see how we can assist with your case. Call us today at 757-622-8100 for a free consultation.

What is Highway Hypnosis?


Highway hypnosis is when you drive in a trance-like state and cannot remember parts of the drive. As a form of distracted driving, highway hypnosis is dangerous. If you are driving on “auto-pilot,” you might not be able to have a fast enough reaction time to avoid an accident. You also might lack cognition and lose track of what you’re doing.

If you fall victim to monotony while driving long distances or while preoccupied with thoughts, highway hypnosis can quickly lead to a motor vehicle crash. People who drive with highway hypnosis experience similar effects to driving while drowsy and share many of the same dangers while being in this state of mind.

Common Situations for Highway Hypnosis

Are you wondering how highway hypnosis happens? The following are common circumstances that often lead to its occurrence, but most often during long drives with few cars on the road and/or at night. It can happen to any motorist but is most common with truck drivers who make long overnight trips.

Frighteningly, people who fall into highway hypnosis may not even realize what is happening. Tragically, sometimes it is an accident that snaps a driver out of highway hypnosis. If they are lucky enough to avoid an accident, they might not even remember how they got to their destination.

Why Roads Have Curves

Have you ever driven in a long straight line for miles and miles? Then, all of a sudden, a curve takes you slightly left or right, then you are back going straight? This is by design to help prevent driver fatigue and eliminate highway hypnosis from occurring on monotonous roads. One study found a motorist’s driving performance tends to decrease more quickly on straight roads than on curvy ones.

What Are the Signs of Highway Hypnosis?

Most people experience highway hypnosis for a host of reasons, including not taking frequent breaks, driving while sleepy, driving at night, and not keeping their eyes moving. Symptoms of highway hypnosis include the inability to recall your surroundings as you drive and heavy eyelids. Other signs it may be beginning to occur include:

  • A foggy, dazed, or dull feeling
  • Inability to focus or concentrate on the road
  • Wandering thoughts that lead to the imagery of those thoughts
  • Slower reaction times to events on the road
  • Sleepiness
  • Frequent blinking
  • Glassy-eyed appearance

As you can see, the symptoms of highway hypnosis are many. If you or your passengers can recognize the signs of a hypnotic effect, you may be able to take action to snap out of it before a crash occurs.

Protect Yourself From Highway Hypnosis

When you are driving long distances and hours in your motor vehicle, falling asleep is hazardous, but even if you’re awake and under highway hypnosis, this can still create a very dangerous situation and lead to personal injury or death. Here are a few ways to avoid highway hypnosis from occurring.

Break Up Driving Time

If you have more than one driver, break up the driving time to avoid one person driving for a long period of time and/or falling into a hypnotic state. A good practice is to try to switch drivers every 90 minutes to two hours. Solo motorists should plan to stop, take a quick nap, or get a room for the night if they become tired.

Listen to Music or Talk

Hypnotic states often lead to higher levels of sleepiness while driving. Listening to music or engaging in lively conversation can offset the conditions that lead to hypnotic driving. If you know you will be going on a long road trip, it is a good idea to create a playlist beforehand so it minimizes the time spent looking at your phone to change the song. It only takes three to four seconds to experience a crash due to distracted driving.

Pull Over

Woman taking a break from driving

For solo drivers, to avoid drowsiness or getting lost in thought, make a plan to stop every 90 minutes to two hours, even briefly. Changing your cognitive activities will activate different parts of the brain. For instance, stop to grab some food or take a short walk around a parking lot. Long stretches of driving time do put stress on both your physical and mental state. Stop and get some fresh air for a few minutes. Giving your neck and back a break helps keep good posture, too.

Get Enough Sleep 

The more sleep a body gets, the stronger the brain’s cognitive ability will be. To keep your brain alert, make sure to get plenty of rest in the days leading up to your road trip. Aside from highway hypnosis, if you are tired, you are more likely to miss red lights or blow-through stop signs and cause a collision.

How Can Our Virginia Attorneys Help You? 

Man driving on the highway at sunset

It is tragic that the fatalities and injuries caused by highway hypnosis are largely preventable if a driver had simply taken precautions and used safe practices to avoid this condition. If you or a loved one are a victim of a driver who fell into highway hypnosis and caused you to be injured in a crash, working with an experienced Virginia car accident attorney can help.

Highway hypnosis cannot be used as a defense against negligent driving. What your attorney can do is help an auto accident victim involving highway hypnosis just like they would with any other type of collision. Proving negligence is the same since highway hypnosis is not a defense. From a technical standpoint, this type of case is no different for an attorney to handle than another auto accident caused by a different negligent act.

Insurance companies are not your friends and will not be looking out for what is in your best interest. They will seek to do whatever they can to avoid paying out settlements by denying or sending meager offers. Your attorney can serve as your advocate and help negotiate a fair settlement for your car accident claim with them to ensure your and your family’s needs are properly taken care of while you recover and for the long-term.

A Distracted Driver is a Dangerous Driver

Is highway hypnosis dangerous? In a word, yes. Highway hypnosis is a condition that can cause a lapse in concentration and increase the likelihood of motor vehicle crashes. This is a phenomenon that causes a driver to go into a trance-like state and, unfortunately, happens more often than we would like to think.

If you or a family member suffer injury or wrongful death in a distracted driving situation, a Virginia car accident lawyer can help. The skilled attorneys at Montagna Law will do an initial consultation by sitting down with you and conducting a full case review, outlining the steps involved in your case.

Sadly, drivers who drive tired, recklessly, or carelessly create dangerous road conditions for all of us. Montagna Law has represented car accident victims in the Hampton Roads area for more than 50 years. Our caring and compassionate personal injury attorneys are committed to fighting for our clients.

To learn more about how the Montagna Law legal team can help you with a car accident or other legal issue, call us today for a free case evaluation at 757-622-8100. You can also contact us via our online contact form if you prefer. Our law firm proudly serves the entire Hampton Roads area, including Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Portsmouth, and Newport News.

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