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Be Alert, aware and awake! - ... Stay clear of ‘highway hypnosis’

Published:Sunday | December 29, 2019 | 12:23 AMPaul Glenroy Messam - Automotives Writer

More highways are coming. Improvements in road conditions will be evident. Motorists should therefore take the necessary precautions so as not to fall prey to ‘highway hypnosis’. That is why it is vital for drivers to be alert, aware, and awake while manoeuvring the roadways.

The term ‘hypnosis’, according to the Collins Caribbean Dictionary, means ‘an artificially induced state of relaxation in which the mind is more than usually receptive to suggestion’.

“Driving is essentially an activity of the mind, and our bodies translate the impulses of our thoughts as we meet and attempt to solve the challenges of the road,” says Dr Hame Persaud.

“The first step in driver control or stability is proper seating position,” says Kurt Harding, auto mechanic. “Unless a person is sitting alert and comfortably behind the wheel, he is handicapping himself from the start.”

The term ‘alert’, according to the Oxford Dictionary means, ‘watchful, vigilant, attentive; a state or period of special vigilance’. The drudgery, the fear, and the urge to command attention behind the wheel could disappear.

“This should be replaced with a high degree of alertness, a healthy respect for the passenger, the motor vehicle, and the skills involved in controlling it efficiently and safely anywhere on our roads,” says Harding.

According to Persaud, remaining alert on our roads can be a challenge, especially when we travel over long distances. Sometimes when we drives mile after miles at a certain speed quite comfortably, the best of us can be lulled into a passive state, which is referred to as ‘highway hypnosis’.

At the first sign of drowsiness or inattention, the driver should do something different, for example, sitting up straighter, loosening a tight collar, opening a window, or changing a radio programme or CD. The motorist could also stop at the next gas station or rest area for a soft drink. If this does not help, find a safe place to park and take a short nap.

Zick Rubin, in his book, Psychology, says, “Although we think of falling asleep as a gradual process, it actually happens in an instant.”

“One second the organism is aware, the next minute he is not,” says William Dement, a leading sleep researcher. Awareness stops abruptly, as if 10 million furiously communicating brain cell, were suddenly placed on ‘stand-by’ status. Hours of sleep may fool the driver into thinking that the car is going more slowly than it really is. In order to avoid ‘highway hypnosis’, and before it becomes a problem for the roads, drivers, and all road users, try this 10 point plan:

1. Avoid driving for long periods. Stop for a short rest in a populated area.

2. Keep your eyes moving and scanning the road ahead, beside, and even behind. READ THE ROAD.

3. Check the rear-view mirror on a regular basis.

4. Maintain constant interest in traffic signs, symbols, roadway markings, and the changing traffic conditions.

5. Glance at the passing scenery.

6, Sing and talk with passengers.

7. Avoid eating heavy meals, and equally avoid not eating at all.

8. Keep the windows open.

9. Wear comfortable shoes.

10. Allow someone else to drive.