Common steps and sub-activities
Long distance lorry [or car] driving
The Beyond within – Dr Sidney Cohen
The sensory monotony of the radar watch or the truck driver on long desert runs is a source of dangerous misperceptions.
‘Seeing the black dog’ is an expression truck drivers use to describe the hallucinations they get from long periods of driving on monotonous terrain. The hallucinations are not confined to just lorry drivers, motorists get them too, but what marks out the lorry driver is the very long periods many of them go without sleep, the number of days they work driving, and the nature of some of the roads on which they drive. They get them more often – which is somewhat alarming.
Comparitively few European truck drivers appear to get hallucinations because both our roads and motorways wind and turn and twist and there is lots to see and keep the senses alert. But an Australian truck driver or an American truck driver going across the desert or across the prairies or similar largely featureless landscapes is continually being sent into a trance like condition by the straightness of the road and the monotony of the landscape. Add to this the sensory deprivation of an airconditioned and sound proofed cab or driving in the dark and you have a recipe for seeing a whole pack of dogs! There is also the effect in many of sleep deprivation, and finally it can be related to reverse REM from the flashing car headlights or lines in the centre of the road.
The term ‘seeing the black dog’ was used in the film ‘Black Dog’, which is where many people come to use the expression. In the film Jack Crews (Patrick Swayze) is a truck driver who has just been released from jail for vehicular manslaughter, for accidentally hitting and killing a motorist on the side of the road during a trip in which he experienced a ‘Black Dog’ hallucination.
The expression however derives from the folklore of the UK. The black dog is essentially a nocturnal apparition – a ghost or hallucination – often said to be malevolent [although benevolent black dogs are not unknown]. Its appearance was sometimes regarded as a portent of death.
Interestingly, many of the black dogs that people claim to have actually seen, as opposed to those in legend and stories such as the Hound of the Baskerville, have appeared during electrical storms and if you turn to the description for ‘storm and thunder’ you will see there is every reason for a person to have a very intense spiritual experience during these events. Black Shuck’s appearance in Bungay in Suffolk is just such an event.
Other places where black dogs have appeared have been crossroads where there is often a crossing of fault lines and thus telluric currents – another good place to get an hallucination [see also geomagnetic Hot spots] so the legends may not be legends at all. So not all black dogs are seen by lorry drivers, but the ones that are, come in some quite interesting flavours.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates conservatively that, during an average year, “drowsy driving” causes 100,000 automobile wrecks, 71,000 injuries and 1,550 fatalities. The U.S. Department of Transportation reports that 20% of all drivers have dozed off at least once behind the wheel. Drowsy driving accidents are often more serious than other wrecks because they often occur on high speed highways (because the driver is maintaining the same speed for a long period of time), there is no attempt to avoid the crash since the driver’s eyes are closed and the driver is usually alone with no one to alert him or her. Adding to these alarming statistics is the fact that long-haul truck drivers tend to sleep only two to four hours per night.
In addition to truck drivers, other adults who are especially vulnerable to sleep deprivation are shift workers. An alarming increase in the frequency of accidents is seen during the graveyard shift [sic]. Notable incidents that have been due in part to sleep deprivation have included the Exxon Valdez oil spill and Three Mile Island. Shift workers are also in the top three populations at the highest risk for drowsy driving automobile accidents.