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The Controversial Truth About Proper Lane Merges

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traffic on highway correct lane merges zipper late

Whether you travel through a lane merge on your daily commute or a construction zone while out of town, you’ve no doubt been enraged by the drivers who speed past everyone to merge at the last possible moment, causing the line of waiting cars to slow to a crawl. If the audacity of that action causes your blood to boil, you may be shocked to learn that this is actually the proper way to merge.

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Why late merges are correct lane merges

The Department of Transportation of many states — including Colorado, Washington, and Minnesota — endorse something termed “zipper merging” (or late merging). According to advocates and traffic experts, the merge point where a lane ends is supposed to be the point where vehicles merge into the other lane — not 500 or 1,000 feet earlier. The proper method of merging is to maintain a slower but steady speed with a safe distance between cars so that both lanes can gradually unite into one lane, like a zipper’s teeth being zipped together.

According to studies, this can reduce the slow-down at merges by up to 40 percent. The data on this is so clear that some states have even paid money on efforts to retrain drivers to accept and follow zipper merging.

Unfortunately, the act of late merging goes against the feelings of fairness and politeness that society has come to associate with early merging. While this may be the ideal way to merge, few vehicles properly follow this procedure. Impatient drivers fly down the empty lane and cut into the other lane without maintaining a reasonable merging speed, causing the line to slam on their brakes. People in the non-ending lane will follow too close together to let merging vehicles enter. For many reasons, it’s unlikely that this will ever become an accepted way of merging.

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Sources: How Stuff Works