September 10, 2016 by David Sutton
Highway Lane Closure Ahead? You’re Merging All Wrong
When you are traveling on a two-lane highway, and you see construction signs indicating your lane is closing ahead, what do you do? Try to get over as soon as possible? Or wait until the last minute? For most, common sense dictates you get over as soon as you safely can. However, this is not the most efficient use of roadway.
How often have you come upon this situation to find one lane backed up for a mile, but the lane you are traveling on (that will soon end) is free and clear? In this scenario it is tempting to stay in the empty lane for as long as you can. And guess what? This is exactly what you should do!
When people try to get over before the final merge point, it creates a chaotic situation with motorists merging at various spots along the highway at varying speeds. It also often results in a back up in one lane while leaving the other lane mostly empty. If everyone were to wait until the final merge point, then merge one-after-another (A then B then A then B…), otherwise known as the “zipper merge,” this would be the most orderly method, and it would use all available roadway instead of creating an unnecessary logjam in one lane.
The reason this doesn’t happen is because many of us are guilty of being assholes, making it difficult for another motorist to merge, probably because we believe they took advantage of the empty lane to jump to the front of the line. But that really is our problem, not their’s, and the reason is simple — it’s not their fault that there is an empty lane. If we were all doing this correctly, there would be no empty lane, instead there would be two lanes of vehicles merging systematically by using all available roadway.
This is how it should work.
- Never punish people for trying to merge. In other words, don’t be an asshole.
- Don’t arbitrarily change your lane. If you are in the lane that is closing, stay there until the final merge point. If you are in the lane that is not closed, stay there.
- As you approach the final merge point, pay attention to the zipper merge ahead, and if you are in the closing lane, merge when its your turn. If you are in the lane that is not closed, allow the next vehicle to merge ahead of you.
It really is that simple, and it would reduce back ups when approaching construction zones. All drivers should be taught this before they get their license.