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(io9)   Have you ever gotten home and not remembered driving there? Have you suddenly "come to" behind the wheel of a car without remembering the last few miles? You're not alone. Here comes the science (and the oncoming traffic)   (io9.com) divider line 92
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10767 clicks; posted to Main » on 03 May 2013 at 8:05 PM (1 year ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2013-05-03 10:09:47 PM  
I have put 17k on my odometer this year. At this point, I welcome what I think of as a Zen-like state during my long-ass drives.
 
2013-05-03 10:16:56 PM  
How do you define the feeling when you stop daydreaming and you find yourself in the final stretch to your house...


WHEN YOU WANTED TO GO SOMEWHERE ELSE!!!


/sucks
 
2013-05-03 10:22:05 PM  

thisispete: Nothing so severe, but I have walked into a room on several occasions and wondered why I went in there.


This Cracked article covers that:
http://www.cracked.com/article_19518_5-seemingly-random-factors-that -c ontrol-your-memory.html
 
2013-05-03 10:24:03 PM  

Ego edo infantia cattus: I call it autopilot. It's not as close to sleep as the article's author seems to think, It's just spacing out, thinking about what you're going to do when you get home, etc. I usually snap out of it after two or three miles.


I agree with everything this fine human said.  I also call it autopilot.  Sometimes autopilot backfires thought and I miss an exit or drive past my destination.
 
2013-05-03 10:25:19 PM  

ladyfortuna: I've zoned out while thinking intensely about something else, but never felt anything like nearing sleep. Nearly falling asleep has only happened a couple of times and it terrifies me, and definitely feels different.


nytmare: It was just daydreaming, not hypnosis, when I've done it. If the drive is familiar you can daydream and go on auto-pilot, and when you're in that state you don't record memories. Disconcerting though, when I snap out of it, and I think I really should have been paying attention to my driving.


Autopilot is what my husband & I call it.  We frequently drive long trips and I have a 2-hour round-trip commute to work.  Can't tell you how often I've suddenly realized I don't remember the last 5 miles of the drive or so.  It's DEFINITELY different from suddenly snapping awake after dozing off for a second.  That's farking terrifying.  Autopilot is noticing you don't remember the last 5 exits and you go, "Huh--that's weird".
 
2013-05-03 10:34:49 PM  

bingethinker: It's not hypnosis. The reason you don't remember anything is because nothing important happened. You drove the same route you drive every day, made the same turns at the same intersections. I don't remember every bite of my breakfast either. I know whether I ate it or not, that's what matters.


happens to me on my morning commute. I'm thinking about what I need to do at work and realize I don't remember the last few miles, hoping I didn't run a red light or cause an accident.

Then there is the un-sober experience. A friend of mine & I went to a bar just up the street from her apartment one Friday night after work. I remember ordering a glass of wine, then my friend started flirting with the bartender, asking what was in the drinks he was mixing. He starting giving us samples. I woke up around 6 the next morning, thinking I was on her couch, only to find I was in my bed. My car was parked correctly, I had taken my makeup off, put my jewelery away and my clothes in the hamper -- not come in drunk and lay across the bed with your shoes on. I called her later asking why she let me drive and she said I had driven her home (we were in her car, which was new and she hadn't let anyone else drive it yet), and that I was fine. We lived about 10 miles away from each other (in Atlanta, Peachtree Corners & Alpharetta) and the route home was on very winding roads. I'm not a religious person, but something was looking out for me that night.
 
2013-05-03 10:36:40 PM  
When I die, I want to go peacefully in my sleep, like my grandfather. Not screaming in terror like the passengers in the car he was driving.
 
2013-05-03 10:37:57 PM  
I had the same thing happen, but when I came to I was married.
 
2013-05-03 10:42:25 PM  
I remember one trip home from Eastern Idaho to Southern Oregon I was taking a new route through the John Day mountains.  I started thinking about something as I was just entering a canyon with lots of turns and when the thought finished I was just exiting.  Still can't remember the inbetween area at all.  That was pretty scary.

I also called it Auto-pilot, still do.
 
2013-05-03 10:46:57 PM  

Pocket Ninja: This happens to people more often than you might think. I mean, I was out driving one day and found myself in the country, out beside a shotgun shack in another part of the world. And what I realized was that I was behind the wheel of a large automobile, not inside mybeautiful house with my beautiful wife. And I had to ask myself at that point,well, how did I get here? It was like I was letting water hold me down, water that was flowing underneath the ground, and all I could do was look up into the blue sky and realize that my money was gone. And you ask, how do I work this? But it's the same as it ever was. That's what you realize.


Letting the days go by...
 
2013-05-03 11:02:09 PM  
Sometimes I used to find myself driving to work instead of going where I was going on my days off.

That all passed when I got old and forgot what a weekend was.
 
2013-05-03 11:03:12 PM  

brigid_fitch: ladyfortuna: I've zoned out while thinking intensely about something else, but never felt anything like nearing sleep. Nearly falling asleep has only happened a couple of times and it terrifies me, and definitely feels different.

nytmare: It was just daydreaming, not hypnosis, when I've done it. If the drive is familiar you can daydream and go on auto-pilot, and when you're in that state you don't record memories. Disconcerting though, when I snap out of it, and I think I really should have been paying attention to my driving.

Autopilot is what my husband & I call it.  We frequently drive long trips and I have a 2-hour round-trip commute to work.  Can't tell you how often I've suddenly realized I don't remember the last 5 miles of the drive or so.  It's DEFINITELY different from suddenly snapping awake after dozing off for a second.  That's farking terrifying.  Autopilot is noticing you don't remember the last 5 exits and you go, "Huh--that's weird".


Word.
 
2013-05-03 11:05:13 PM  
When I have a google driverless car, I intend to sleep through all my long trips.
 
2013-05-03 11:12:38 PM  

rhiannon: Ego edo infantia cattus: I call it autopilot.

Or for a lot of people, "talking on a cell phone".


Yesterday I went to the grocery store. On the way I go my kid a happy meal and we parked and I let him eat it in the car before we went in. Directly in front of us was a horribly parked minivan (it was angle parked in a straight space). Just my luck, as we were eating, the shiatty parker walked up with her grocery cart, her ear glued to her cellphone. She unloaded her cart into the back of her van with one hand, the other still clutching that phone. It took her at least ten minutes to do this. She finally finished loading her van, got in and drove off, phone still on her farking ear. I wanted to slap it out of her hand.
 
2013-05-03 11:15:44 PM  
When I was younger, I lived in Anaheim, and went to CSULB. Drove the 22 frwy to get there. On many occasions, I would "come to" 1/4 mile from the Seventh street offramp. Now mind you, never had an accident, or a ticket, or anything. It was like a subsection of my brain was responsible for driving that route. Later on in the day, I remembered a song on the radio that I had heard that morning.
 
2013-05-03 11:22:53 PM  
Closest I've ever come was my 21st birthday.

I remember being tied up on stage at the titty bar. I remember the strippers taking turns pouring shots down a funnel into my mouth.

I woke up at home late the next afternoon. My Pontiac was in the driveway. My keys hanging on the hook inside the foyer. To this day I don't know how I got home.

None of my friends will tell me. I swear, it's like they decided as a group to fark with my mind for years to come. Of course, they're my friends, so this doesn't really surprise me.
 
2013-05-03 11:25:24 PM  

Aulus: About 1972, my parents were moving from Marlette, MI to Mason City, IA and my brother and I got stuck doing all the moving, multiple trips, back and forth, hauling a huge U-Haul trailer behind a big Chevy sedan, plus doing almost all of the loading and unloading ourselves.  The last trip out was with my brother driving the car with the U-Haul trailer and I driving a 22 foot motor home with my mom, my grandmother, the dog and the cat and a crapload of house plants.  To say I was tired would be an understatement.  Around 10PM, I was driving and suddenly slammed on the brakes, scared the hell out of Mom.  When she asked what that was about, I said, "It's the people crossing the road.  Don't you see them?"  Of course she didn't.  there was no crowd of people crossing the interstate ahead of us.  It was the play of lights and shadows from oncoming cars in the eastbound lanes, across the median and my overly tired brain.  I could have sworn there was a huge crown of people, much like the disposessed refugees in the old WW II movie news reels, slowly crossing the road.

We took the next exit, parked in a truck stop, shifted the plants around and sacked out on the beds in the motorhome until morning.


woah, I had a similar experience driving straight from san francisco to phoenix. It was late, I was tired and about 2 hours from home i the desert in the dark night my headlights shine on a person running up the ditch on the side of the road into the road. Freaks me the hell out and I sweve, the dude is about to run into the road. After I pass him I kinda wake up and realize I don't remember much from the last hour or 2 and there are no cars or civilization out here, it was all in my head. I saw that person plain as day, so yeah, your brain can trip off lack of sleep same as on lsd.
 
2013-05-03 11:28:19 PM  
This why I buy a pack of smokes even though i don't smoke. I can drive for many a mile with enough cigarettes.
 
2013-05-03 11:30:30 PM  
<CSB> I used to do this all the time. Once I was driving in a daze on a boring 3 hour highway trip and woke up as I realized I was starting to swerve off the road on to the median. To make matters worse it was on an overpass so there was a concrete barrier where I was headed. I went to get back on the road and realized I couldn't because a semi was in the process of switching lanes on me! I hit the brakes and made it out safe. It was then I realized I was swerving to avoid the semi all along, even though I was not consciously aware of it at the time. </CSB>


thisispete: Nothing so severe, but I have walked into a room on several occasions and wondered why I went in there.


Not uncommon and science has some ideas on that as well. Link
 
2013-05-03 11:42:14 PM  
Anybody who's driven the Seney Stretch on M-28 knows all about this phenomenon.
 
2013-05-03 11:50:25 PM  
www.bonappetit.com
 
2013-05-03 11:57:56 PM  
This happened to me also, luckily I snapped out of it when the roach burnt my fingers.
 
2013-05-04 12:06:35 AM  
What, sober?  No.
 
2013-05-04 12:12:12 AM  
Driving semi truck cross country with a co-driver, one fine morning around 2 or 3 am on the way to Plainview, TX to pick up a load of cow hides going to a dock in L A/Long Beach. I don't remember exactly where we were coming from but I do remember going around Lubbock and heading north on US 87 and stopping at a service station or convenience store or something, this is before Interstate 27 so all I had to do was pull to the side of the road and park, where I got a cup of coffee and started up the hill to Plainview.

I finished the coffee just as I got to the top of the hill, I tossed the cup and settled in and the next thing I see is a sign that said WELCOME TO PLAINVIEW!

This is/was the only time I have ever been there, but according to the map it is 25 or 30 miles down what, must have been, the straightest smoothest stretch of 2 lane highway ever because I remember nothing nada zip of that 30/45(?) minute drive!!

Then we have to get the truck loaded at a slaughterhouse with hides coated in salt to be shipped to some third world country to be made into leather. We got a tour of the operation from where the cows come in to be killed then skinned and bled and cut-up and...ble e ech (clean-up aisle 5!)... almost quit eating meat after that!!!
 
2013-05-04 12:34:26 AM  
This happens to me all the time, but it happens in city traffic, too.  I used to live in Philly (Center City), and sometimes I'd wonder if I passed certain places yet on my ride home.  Same thing when I lived in rural Vermont.  It's not that I don't know what's going on with the car and my surroundings, but I just enter a trance.  I almost never look at the speedometer, either.  Once I get on the highway, and I know the speed limit (usually 65 where I am), I get between 66-72 mph, and that's it.

Happens to me while I'm walking, too.  I guess I just think a lot.
 
2013-05-04 12:36:12 AM  
I drive about 1,200-1,500 miles a week. Pandora One radio and my iTunes downloads keep the driving interesting. Lots of Diet Cokes, Reese's peanut butter cups and smokes. Just did a major sound system upgrade so I can be heard in the next zip code, which is nice.
The only problem I have is feeling like I forgot how to walk when I get out of the vehicle after a couple of hours driving.

Rained all week, cranked up the blues and funk and never cared it was a crappy weather week.
 
2013-05-04 12:52:09 AM  
FTFA: A later study, done in 1978, indicated that monotony of scenery can eventually cause the eyes to switch to that unseeing stare that we observe on people who have tuned out.

You software developers out there know this stare. This is the one you see on other developers' faces in the daily status meetings held by project managers who don't know how to develop software or manage projects.
 
2013-05-04 12:54:31 AM  
Left Atlanta, GA at about 9:00 pm on a CB400F Honda motorcycle after a really long day. Recall exiting I-85. Woke up, locked my arms in place ( and in terror), eased into the brakes, and slowed to a stop. I was in the emergency lane, about 12 miles further down the road than I can remember. What woke me was the sound of gravel under the wheels at about 30 mph.

Yes I have fallen asleep at the controls of a motorcycle.
 
2013-05-04 12:56:14 AM  

Any Pie Left: I lived for a time about 35 miles west of Chicago, but dated a gal in the city.  Had to take the Kennedy Expressway to and from. After one long pleasant evening together, I drop her off home and start heading to my own place.  I was tired and defaulted to keeping my interval between me and the car ahead.  At one point, the car in front of me brakes to a full stop and my head snaps awake and I am in the departures drop-off terminal at O'Hare Airport, with no idea how I had got there. About a 12 mile detour.

These days the job keeps me on the road a time or two per month, long boring-ass drives.  I really have to fight the fatigue.  What works for me includes:

very crunchy snacks alike peanut M&M's or chex mix
spicy snacks like slim jims, really, any kind of chewing will help keep you awake, but crunchiness and hot spices assist the process.

Driving with the windows full down in any weather

singing to a blasting radio, top of your lungs.  When I get too tired for that to work, I pull over, do stretches, take a short walk.

Used to use jolt! cola,  which kept me saucer-eyed for 200 miles nonstop,  but I can't stand the taste of today's red bulls and what not.


Caffeine tabs. Sugary foods only help until you crash. Then you're sleepy and taking weight.

/truck driver
 
2013-05-04 01:21:05 AM  
So I've zoned out multiple times.  It basically has to be a straight, flat freeway that I've driven before with no traffic.  Once fell asleep in the left lane and woke up a mile and 2 curves later in the left lane.

/Also, fear is a wonderful motivator.  Kinda Boring Road => Oh hey, there's fog and I can't see anything other than the lights of the guy in front of me including the lane markers.
//And since that was coming down from the mountain pass, by the bottom we were all doing about 95 in the center lane of the soupiest fog I've ever seen.  (since it was quite a bit safer to follow closely and use their lights as a guide than to hobble down at 5 MPH with other cars flying by)
 
2013-05-04 01:26:24 AM  

phalaeo: This happens to me all the time, but it happens in city traffic, too.  I used to live in Philly (Center City), and sometimes I'd wonder if I passed certain places yet on my ride home.  Same thing when I lived in rural Vermont.  It's not that I don't know what's going on with the car and my surroundings, but I just enter a trance.  I almost never look at the speedometer, either.  Once I get on the highway, and I know the speed limit (usually 65 where I am), I get between 66-72 mph, and that's it.

Happens to me while I'm walking, too.  I guess I just think a lot.


After logging a lot of miles, driving is as much reflex and muscle memory than anything else.  I read somewhere that the longer you own a car, the more likely you'll end up on autopilot.  You know where everything is (blinkers, volume control, windows, etc.), how the car handles, and recognize every single noise and vibration.  Driving becomes second nature, leaving your brain to do whatever exploration it feels like.  If something unexpected pops up, you'll react, even if you didn't intend to.

/Bought my car brand-new in 2006
//Current odometer reading:  220.6K miles
///Yeah, I go on autopilot a LOT.
 
2013-05-04 01:34:21 AM  
Cool article, very informative. It explains a lot. I still wish I knew where all this blood came from, and why I'm wearing nothing but leather chaps and a platinum blonde wig, but maybe that's normal for this too.
 
2013-05-04 01:50:01 AM  
There is a section of I-10, I think in Arizona, but maybe in New Mexico, that is very dangerous for this reason. I think a curve was built into the road to either wake up the drivers, or have the drive off the road safely. Rumble strips help a lot obviously. When the road is long and straight for miles and miles, I imagine this is more of a problem.
 
2013-05-04 01:51:02 AM  

Cork on Fork: I used to drive 6 hours across New York to get to or from college, and it was pretty much all one highway that looked the same. I would routinely find myself 3 or 4 exits further than where I thought I was and not even realize it.

But that does not even compare to those nights when I would be driving home tired, and I would suddenly jolt into focus and realize I had just fallen asleep. That is downright terrifying.



*I*, for one, welcome our new rumble-strip underlords.
 
2013-05-04 02:30:29 AM  

katerbug72: rhiannon: Ego edo infantia cattus: I call it autopilot.

Or for a lot of people, "talking on a cell phone".

Yesterday I went to the grocery store. On the way I go my kid a happy meal and we parked and I let him eat it in the car before we went in. Directly in front of us was a horribly parked minivan (it was angle parked in a straight space). Just my luck, as we were eating, the shiatty parker walked up with her grocery cart, her ear glued to her cellphone. She unloaded her cart into the back of her van with one hand, the other still clutching that phone. It took her at least ten minutes to do this. She finally finished loading her van, got in and drove off, phone still on her farking ear. I wanted to slap it out of her hand.



The absolutely most amazing thing I ever saw when working at the AT&T call center (for about a year) was one family that had 4 or 5 cellphones in a family plan. They ran out of roll-over minutes and had tried changing their plan 2-3 times in the last 4 months to get everything back on track. Eventually, they got me so I checked the daily/monthly useage. Their problem was that one phone was used 6 days per week starting at 7 am and was hardly off/not in use until about 8 hrs later. So, that one phone was killing all minutes in their family plan. I saw that there was usually a 10 to 25 min break every couple of hours, so whoever used that phone must have used it for work.

The second most amazing thing I saw was the one phone that had sent/received 26k of text messages in a month. The third was the guy that racked up a $28k data useage charge ('our' fault since a local store had set his blackberry up on a 100 MB data plan instead of an unlimited plan) although I had heard about some guy visiting Japan and linking his blackberry to his laptop to download a few gigs of porn..... to the tune of $250 k (international pay-per-use might not sound too expensive at $1 per MB or whatever, but that's assuming you the user understand how 1 MB relates to 1 GB.).
 
2013-05-04 03:00:47 AM  
serialsuicidebomber:

The absolutely most amazing thing I ever saw when working at the AT&T call center (for about a year) was one family that had 4 or 5 cellphones in a family plan. They ran out of roll-over minutes and had tried changing their plan 2-3 times in the last 4 months to get everything back on track. Eventually, they got me so I checked the daily/monthly useage. Their problem was that one phone was used 6 days per week starting at 7 am and was hardly off/not in use until about 8 hrs later. So, that one phone was killing all minutes in their family plan. I saw that there was usually a 10 to 25 min break every couple of hours, so whoever used that phone must have used it for work.

The second most amazing thing I saw was the one phone that had sent/received 26k of text messages in a month. The third was the guy that racked up a $28k data useage charge ('our' fault since a local store had set his blackberry up on a 100 MB data plan instead of an unlimited plan) although I had heard about some guy visiting Japan and linking his blackberry to his laptop to download a few gigs of porn..... to the tune of $250 k (international pay-per-use might not sound too expensive at $1 per MB or whatever, but that's assuming you the user understand how 1 MB
relates to 1 GB.). 

Holy shiat. I have a pay-as-you-go phone that I keep dumping 15 bucks a month into so I don't lose my minutes. I think it's up to 45 bucks now. I rarely ever make calls. I usually text if I need to tell someone something. I recently upgraded to an Android smartphone and I still don't use it that much. It's nice to have speedy (well, a hell of a lot speedier than my previous non-smartphone) internet on the go though. I couldn't imagine going through my day with a phone stuck to my ear. I'm not a teenager. I seem to be able to manage driving (and shopping and eating and walking and ordering at a restaurant and paying for gas and pooping) without talking on the phone. I just don't understand it.
 
2013-05-04 04:18:00 AM  
Don't worry, I heard that pedestrians are great for dissipating excess speed without causing too much damage to your car.

Anyway, if they were real people, they'd have cars, right?
 
2013-05-04 06:48:54 AM  
I was driving back from Stone Brewery up to Torrance last year. It was the weekend, so another guy and I went down to check out the brewery tour. We took the tour, then had a few beers in the restaurant. Spectacular restaurant, by the way. If you have the chance, it's definitely a very nice place to visit. The food was a bit too expensive and not really that good, but the restaurant atmosphere and beer were excellent. If you want good food at a brewpub, I'd recommend the Issaquah Brewhouse. It's not anywhere near LA or San Diego, so it might be a bit inconvenient. Stay away from the pasta. Stick with the burgers. Anyway, I digress. On the drive back, I entered one of those hypnotic states and the car started drifting. My buddy jabbed me in the shoulder and grabbed the wheel and guided us back into our lane, but not before we hit the turtles a few times.

We pulled off the highway into San Clemente where I passed out for an hour and my buddy went to grab some ice cream. After a chance to sober up we got back on the highway and went back to the hotel, none the worse for wear. Dinner was at Rockfish in Manhattan Beach where we had a few more pints of beer with dinner.

I didn't use to like Los Angeles. I always felt it was dirty, brown, dusty, and the buildings were run down and featureless. But after getting out of Torrance and Redondo Beach the city became much more interesting. I love going there now, even if sometimes I zone out on the road after a few pints.
 
2013-05-04 08:53:38 AM  
In the middle of driving i'll often realize my brain has started taken me on one of my common drive routes instead of towards the destination I'm supposed to be headed.  It's scary, but if your brain is used to driving it will tend to do a better job than if you were actually aware that you are driving.  In this state you were actually aware of what you were doing, but your brain just stopped funneling it into memory and that coming to moment is when you question something and realize you can't remember.  If it's a route you do all the time your brain realizes this and gets lazy shutting unneeded parts down.  You'll get the same phenomenon with sports or video games with what's known as "the zone".  Players will come out of it usually by realizing some achievement they just did and will have little to no memory of actually playing.  During this time you are actually extremely focused on your task and stimuli that would normally be distracting if you're aware in your mind is getting canceled out so performance can improve in this state.

A brain with lack of sleep is a whole other phenomenon however.  In this condition parts of your brain are going into sleep mode while others are still aware.  if you are up long enough it will start microsleeping where you go to sleep for a few seconds and wake up.  It happens so fast you'll be unaware it even happened.  This condition is very dangerous while driving and is very similar to a drunk brain.  Get off the road if you are tired and start noticing small holes in your memory.  You are not as awake as you think you are.
 
2013-05-04 10:29:19 AM  
I do this if I don't have some sort of distraction to keep my brain engaged. It is not required that the way be long and boring. On drives over an hour I can go into driving fugue/autopilot/whatever and lose whole states on trips I've never made before, taking correct exits and multiple freeways as I go. I will suddenly realize that traffic is getting thick, then I'll realize that Ive lost a number of hours since my last awareness, or I'll find myself at or near my destination.

Unsettling. I'll use the hands-free and talk on the phone to prevent that if need be.

While many on here scream about anything other than full-attention-to-driving-all-the-time (which only people with certain neural dysfunctions can actually do, and most of these won't be allowed to drive) and I guarantee most of the full-attention crowd aren't doing it because it's impossible for most people, I actually need the sort of distractions most people complain about if I am to maintain any form of road awareness.
 
2013-05-04 10:48:24 AM  
How about , NO!!!
 
2013-05-04 09:50:29 PM  

Dead for Tax Reasons: driving for 10 hours after being up 40 hours isnt fun...to bad i seem to do it more often that i want to...no amount of red bull works at that time


You really shouldn't do that.  It's as dangerous as driving drunk (properly drunk not "whoo I've got a buzz" drunk).  If this is work related and they're requiring you to do that I'm fairly sure that's against the law (it is here, don' t know about where you are).

Just from the basic information in the one sentence above, you are at a minimum a serious hazard (shouldn't be driving, but if you must take a nap first), and are probably a severe hazard (don't go near a car until you've had a full night's sleep).

And when I say "hazard" I really don't care if you off yourself.  You're a hazard to the poor bastards who are stuck sharing the road (and probably sidewalk) with you.
 
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