How do you merge when there’s a ‘lane closed’ sign ahead? Turns out, there’s a better way


(WYTV) – You’re on a divided highway and you’ve got two lanes to use. A sign says, “Lane closed in 1,000 feet” — the lane you’re in. What do you do?

Do you turn on your blinker and try to immediately move into the lane that will stay open, or do you drive along in your lane and merge at the last moment?

To most of us, merging early seems courteous, patient and less selfish. But many traffic studies have shown those early mergers are just creating a long, slow line of traffic that’s frustrating, inefficient and causes accidents.

What we should be doing is called the “zipper merge.” Every driver in the lane that’s closing should go all the way up to the front of the line and take turns merging with the other lane of traffic. It looks a bit like teeth on a zipper coming together.

This technique uses all of the available road space for as long as possible, cutting congestion by 40%. It also reduces crashes.

But our driving habits resist this. It seems pushy and unfair to rush to the front of the line, so we all agree to spend time in a single, congested line of traffic. We’re afraid to use the perfectly good lane right next to us because somebody might not let us in.

Quite a few states, including Ohio and Pennsylvania, have encouraged their drivers to try the zipper merge.

A 2013 survey from Minnesota found 45% of drivers in their 20s and 30s thought the zipper merge was a great idea, but only 8% of seniors felt comfortable with it.

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