Thursday, October 25, 2007

Highway hypnosis...time for a vacation?

I had an occurrence a few days ago while commuting to work on my motorcycle: highway hypnosis or automaticity. I recall catching a green light on a heavily traveled highway on my way to work and then had the sensation of "waking up" some 8 miles further down the road. I cannot recall passing any of the intervening landmarks or any other details like the amount of traffic on the road--which, no doubt, was heavy as I was in the midst of the morning rush hour. After this happened, it seemed right to find a spot to pull off and take a few deep breaths.

You may have had such an experience. While driving you suddenly realize you cannot recall the last several minutes on the road, or you may not remember anything after passing some point. I have had this experience in automobiles several times but never before while riding.

This experience is scary enough on four wheels, but is downright chilling when on two. Riding a motorcycle requires constant alertness and it's best to assume every car you can see is trying to run you over (click for my Tips on Riding post). Regularly, I have to dodge autos driven by myopic drivers that cross my path intentionally or by mistake. This requires vigilance paying attention to cars and circumstances trying to anticipate the possibilities of close encounters. It is difficult to imagine doing this successfully when zoned out in some hypnotic state. Riding on two wheels, even driving on four, is no place to be on autopilot.

Despite riding several times since this event, without zoning out I might add, I've decided I need a vacation.


Anonymous said...

Hi John,

That has happened several (many?) times to me over the years driving/riding to work on my curvy country road. I've discussed this same phenomenon with a couple people at work who've experienced it. If I remind myself before I start out that it can happen, it won't. Also, I think I'm more susceptible when preoccupied or tired. I don't remember it happening except to/from (mostly to) work but it may have.

Sure sounds scary having it happen in your area. I suggest a little contemplation before leaving the driveway instead of just zooming off.


Anonymous said...

On the other hand, maybe our brains are fully engaged but don't bother recording since it's just a repeat.


John Walton said...

Good advice. Good points. I still find it bothersome.