When the conscious mind and unconscious mind of a driver are focused on different things, the outcome is something known as white line fever or highway hypnosis. Highway hypnosis is extremely dangerous because it causes drivers to “zone out” and while they may complete the basic tasks of driving, they often have no conscious memory of actually driving. Highway hypnosis can occur over long stretches of road and is an especial danger for truck drivers, because they drive over such long distances and so frequently.
Not a great deal is known about white line fever, even though it is an obvious danger on the roads. Researchers believe that:
•It contributes to accidents each year
•It may be more of a risk on long, monotonous stretches of road
•It may be linked to undiagnosed sleep disorders in some cases
There is no doubt, however, that it can kill. In fact, the accident on the Metro-North Railroad commuter train earlier this month has been blamed on an engineer who allegedly experienced highway hypnosis. In this state, some experts note, a driver may complete rote tasks but may not be able to respond to sudden or unexpected changes in time, which creates a risk of accidents.
Experts do agree that drivers can do a number of things to prevent highway-hypnosis related car and truck accidents in Miami and other communities:
•Get plenty of sleep. Some experts believe that highway hypnosis is in fact “micro sleep” or very short bursts of sleep that can occur if a person is very fatigued. Getting adequate sleep and adjusting for shift work, they agree, can dramatically reduce the instances of white line fever. Truck drivers are expected to abide by hours of service rules, but non-commercial motorists must be made aware of the dangers and need to decide themselves to get proper sleep to prevent truck and car accidents in Miami and other cities.
•Find ways to stay alert while driving. Long drives are not very stimulating, so drivers need to take steps to focus on driving so that their minds don’t wander. A very effective way to do this is to keep scanning the road and to think three moves ahead. Another option is to have tiny check-in times. For example, at every street corner or when passing each tree, a driver could ask themselves if their full focus is still on driving.
•Change up routes. Since long, boring routes are more likely to be the culprit, changing things up can take. Carpooling or taking a different route can mean a driver has to focus a little more on driving and this can prevent white line fever.
•Set car or truck conditions to promote wakefulness. Make sure there is plenty of fresh air in the car or truck and keep the temperature cool. Avoid eating a heavy meal before driving and make sure to take regular breaks when driving to prevent fatigue.
•Use extra caution when driving at night. Highway hypnosis is especially a risk at night, since the flashing of street lights going by can have a hypnotic effect. The body is already often tired at this time of the night and may be more susceptible. In addition, many drivers focus on the white lines on the road as they get tired and this can create a hypnotic effect.