Why People Merge At The Last Second

Posted on by Defensive Driving | in Driver Safety For You & Your Family

 
The “Zipper Merge” is among the most misunderstood and polarizing techniques on the road. People often misunderstand the reasons why merging late is actually preferable to a more “polite” method of everyone staying in the final lane prior to the merger. Studies have consistently proven that merging late is actually an improvement during medium to heavy traffic. Despite improving traffic, the concept of potentially being passed while waiting in line is a frequent trigger of road rage.

What is zipper merge?

A zipper merge occurs when you are on a two lane road when one lane is ending, and must merge into the other. Similar to roundabouts and traffic circles, the concept of a zipper merge isn’t a method that all drivers understand or are familiar with. The confusion of how to properly navigate these more complex intersections is a frequent source of frustration and chaos. At a merge, emotions can be running high. 22% of drivers said they feel anger when a multi-lane highway narrows according to NHTSA. Over 25% of drivers admit to either speeding to merge ahead of someone or closing the gap so that another car is unable to merge. More than 80% of drivers self-report that they’ve experienced road rage or engaged in aggressive driving behavior per AAA.

diagram showing highway traffic merging

So let us break it down for you. If your lane merges ahead, it’s okay for you to continue in that lane until closer to the merge point. If your lane is the one that continues, it’s okay for people to be “cutting the line” by continuing in the merging lane until closer to the merger. Will some drivers take advantage of this to move up a few spots? Of course. But that’s not something that you should get upset about. One of the worst things you can do while driving is to let your emotions take over. Whether you’re in the lane that needs to get over, or in the lane that continues; it is absolutely critical that you don’t get upset when another driver does something unexpected. Even though it may feel unfair in that moment and you might be tempted to not let them in, traffic is actually moving faster by allowing them to do so. You also put yourself in danger by attempting to stop them.

Learning by trial and error is normal. Trial and error becomes unsafe when it is happening on a busy road. Those errors can cause an accident, injury or death. And every day is a reality. Drivers react with anger and use their car to block someone. There have been hundreds of deaths as the result of violence and crashes related to road rage. At the end of the day, it just isn’t worth getting hurt over.

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