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I remember reading about a psychological effect that can happen to - for example - drivers, when they are driving on a monotonous road, where they are completely entranced by the monotony of that road. This most often happens at night, because it makes drives even more boring. The effect can lead to accidents because the driver is oblivious to what's happening around them.

I just can't remember the word. Any ideas?

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An important issue in civil engineering. Its the reason engineers design deliberate curves in highways and build in rumble strips. –  Gary's Student Aug 24 at 0:00

3 Answers 3

up vote 7 down vote accepted

As Wikipedia describes it: Highway hypnosis, also known as white line fever:

a mental state in which a person can drive a truck or automobile great distances, responding to external events in the expected manner with no recollection of having consciously done so. In this state, the driver's conscious mind is apparently fully focused elsewhere, with seemingly direct processing of the masses of information needed to drive safely. --Wikipedia

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Never knew there was a name for it- I just always referred to it as "driving mode" –  Jim Aug 24 at 0:12
    
This wasn't the word I was looking for, or so I thought. I finally remembered where I read it: Larry Niven's Ringworld. In the book they call it "Plateau Trance". Which is apparently completely made up. "Highway Hypnosis" is indeed the word I sought. –  Simon Verbeke Aug 24 at 0:31
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"Plateau trance" is an in-universe term. Plateau is one of the planets in Niven's Known Space universe. pub38.bravenet.com/faq/… –  duskwuff Aug 24 at 6:00
    
Dots i's, crosses t's, even though they were already plainly dotted and crossed with initial linkage. –  Wayfaring Stranger Aug 30 at 21:17
    
Thank you for correcting that. I think you misunderstand the requirement. A link is not sufficient; this is your confusion. Please review the Help Center about this. –  tchrist Aug 30 at 21:28

I have heard it referred to as "driving on auto-pilot", taken from aeronautical usage.

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This does not provide an answer to the question. To critique or request clarification from an author, leave a comment below their post. –  Matt Gutting Aug 25 at 14:40
    
@matt Gutting for my education (I'm new here) in what way have I breached guidelines please? The OP's question was "I can't remember the word, any ideas" so I believe I have answered that question. –  Purple Helen Aug 26 at 14:51
    
That was an auto-post; I probably should have specified a bit better and I apologize for misunderstanding. This is indeed an answer; but a good answer will provide not just your experience or opinion, but also some other authority to back you up. If you can track down, for example, a dictionary definition that agrees with you, and edit your post to incorporate that, then I'll upvote this. –  Matt Gutting Aug 26 at 14:59

It's not in any dictionaries that I know of (see Onelook), but I've found several uses of the word hypovigilance in the context of driving monotonous roads.

An article by Gregoire Larue, Andry Rakotonirainy, and Anthony Pettitt, and a 2011 PhD Thesis of Rebecca Michael, for example.

Aside, hypervigilance, the opposite phenomenon, oddly seems to enjoy much more popularity as a word:

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