You get in the car, back out of your driveway and start your daily commute. Then it feels like you just blink, and you’re pulling into the parking lot at work. You barely remember the drive there, if at all. What happened?
Some are quick to call this distracted driving. They assume that you must have been doing something else, like looking at your phone and just using your peripheral vision to drive or that you must have been aggressively daydreaming. While that does happen, it’s not always the case. You could actually be experiencing highway hypnosis.
Experts note that this type of hypnosis is like driving on autopilot. It often happens when you’re doing something that is a major part of your routine — such as driving to work on a road you have traveled every day for the last five years. You have done this so often that your brain doesn’t have to engage with it the same way it would if you were on a new road and needed to take in your surroundings.
Can you avoid it? Taking breaks can help. It may also help to make sure you’re properly rested, though hypnosis is not the same as falling asleep behind the wheel. One of the easiest ways to avoid it is just to drive on a new route or change your routine in some way. If you do that, then your brain must focus on driving again, and you won’t get to work with these big empty periods of time where you basically did not create any new memories.
Anything that takes a driver’s mind off the road can be dangerous. If one of these drivers hits your car, be sure you understand your legal options.