Safe Driving and Zipper Merge Debate
Traffic is one of the few things in life where everyone shares the same opinion. Have you ever met someone who enjoys sitting in traffic? Exactly. Nobody likes seeing four lanes of highway filled up with cars and trucks crawling at 5 mph in a 70 mph zone. Rush hour traffic can be a daily inconvenience for most motorists, but construction related traffic can be just as bad. The zipper merge versus the early merge method has been a popular talking point for transportation agencies as they try to agree on which method is the safest and most effective, way to merge in traffic. The focus being to reduce the risk of traffic log jams, highway accidents and road rage related car accidents. One important question, is the sipper merge safe driving?
What’s is the Zipper Merge?
The zipper merge means using the merging lane as long as possible before merging. Imagine you are traveling on a two lane highway (like North Loop 1604) and see a sign warning you that the right lane will be merging into the left lane in X amount of miles. With the zipper merge you will stay in the right lane until the right lane begins to close and then merge to the left. Basically, when two lanes move into one the motorist waits until the last minute to merge. This method works best during heavy traffic where vehicles are moving at lower speeds.
Transportation agencies say this method actually improves the flow of traffic because motorists are using both lanes of traffic to their full extent. At the merge point motorists take turns getting into the lane using the same common curiosity one sees at a four way intersection. The drawback to this method is that people who merge early will see the zipper method as a way to cut in front of traffic. Someone waiting in the left lane will get upset seeing someone pass them on the right only to merge a few cars ahead of them. Selfish, or angry, drivers will be less likely to give right away to drivers practicing the zipper merge which creates the potential for road rage.
Texas Stand on the Zipper Merge
Texas Department of Transportation wrote about the zipper merge on their blog in October 2016. They talked about the benefits of using the zipper method while understanding the difficulty of convincing all drivers to practice this method. Some drivers feel that waiting until the last minute to merge is rude and feel that merging early is safer. According to TXDOT, it’s not rude to use an open lane that is going to merge because that is how it is supposed to work. It is recommended to practice using the zipper merge when traffic has build up and there is space in the closing lane. You may feel like you are cutting ahead of the line but in fact you are helping to reduce the line of backed up cars by filling up the unused space.
Minnesota’s Department of Transportation conducted a study on the zipper method in 2008 to try and prove if it was indeed safer. According to their study, traffic backup was reduced 40-50 percent! Early merging causes traffic to build up as vehicles start crowding up the lane to form a line. With the zipper merge you have two lanes of flowing traffic that eventually slows down at the merge point instead of one long line of traffic.
Safe Driving In a Perfect World
Optimistically, the zipper merge may reduce traffic jam time but then again drivers would take turns merging into a lane that could result in more collisions. Today, because of distracted drivers, road rage and the fact that many drivers were trained to merge early, the zipper method is prevented from taking full effect. In a perfect world all drivers would use defensive driving techniques and traffic jams would reduce, car wrecks would decrease and all the headaches of automobile accidents would fade. That is not the case today but we remain loyal to providing you with information on trendy driving topics along with safe driving practices.
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