Highway hypnosis may put grey nomads in peril

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Grey nomads may be at risk of highway hypnosis in Australia?
Is highway hypnosis a concern for grey nomads?

Do grey nomads suffer a condition known as ‘highway hypnosis’ as they drive great distances between Outback camping spots, and is it putting their lives – and others – at risk?

The term has been catapulted to public consciousness after a train drover in New York said he was experiencing ‘highway hypnosis’ just prior to a recent derailment in which four people were killed.

Experts say highway hypnosis is what you sometimes experience as a driver when you can’t recall the previous few seconds of your journey. The condition is apparently more likely to strike on mundane or familiar trips when you don’t need to take in the road signs.

Apparently, it does not mean you are falling asleep. Instead, it’s a sensation rather like reading a newspaper at breakfast, but not taking in the words because you’re listening to what’s going on in the kitchen.

“It’s a strange feeling … you’re not necessarily inattentive but you’re in a slightly different state,” Paul Watters of the UK’s Automobile Association told the BBC. “I don’t think it means you’re going to have an accident but it means you’re not completely engaged in the task of driving.”

However, there is some dispute as to how dangerous highway hypnosis is.

Some say drivers who “zone out” have slower reaction times, and tis could explain why at some accidents there are no skid marks before a car foes into the back of a truck on the hard shoulder.

However, Stuart Robertson, a Scottish hypnotherapist who specialises in treating drivers, told the BBC that the opposite may be true.

Driving long distances can cause the brain to behave in the same way as it does under meditation, he claims. He says the brain is in a relaxed state but if a dog was to run into the road, the driver could react as quickly as normal – or quicker – because the sub-conscious would still be highly engaged with the environment.

Have you ever experienced highway hypnosis? How did you feel? Do you think it is dangerous? Comment below.

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3 Responses to Highway hypnosis may put grey nomads in peril

  1. Yes, I have experienced this, but usually on a short familiar trip when I arrive home and don’t actually remember getting there. Don’t feel as though I have been inattentive though.

  2. i have my wife calls it a senior moment

  3. Yes I have.
    When I was younger around the 30 mark I often drove from Wollongong to Molong and could not remember actually driving through a town EG. Bathurst. Yet one is in traffic with traffic lights and many turns.
    I still believe that maybe my attention was solely focused on driving and not thinking of my town location.
    It has not happened in my later years, now approaching 70 however a long distant drive is not now my scene.

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