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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

How Does The Zipper Merge Work?

In many ways, America is still the wild west in terms of the way we drive. We’re just not as structured as other places. For example, Germans do not use the left lane of the highway unless they’re passing a vehicle. Don’t get caught holding up tracking in the left lane on German highways. It’s a major faux pas. Although American drivers usually follow the law and abide by the road signs, we don’t have the road etiquette some other regions have. 

It’s probably time to improve our organization. Arizona law now prohibits impeding traffic in the left lane of the highway. That’s right, if you’re in Arizona and you’re going more slowly than the person behind you, and you are in the left lane, you’re breaking the law. Essentially, you use the left lane for passing only or risk getting into trouble. 

Another piece of etiquette that’s catching on in the US is called the zipper merge. It’s supposed to be a faster and easier way to deal with merging lanes, which can be stressful. How it works is rarely explained clearly. We’ll try to do it right. 

When you have to merge into the next lane, someone has to give you enough room. Some drivers think the right thing to do is merge early and just wait in line. Others think it’s best to merge at the last opportunity, using as much road as possible.

The zipper merge technique advocates using all available lanes all the way up until they end. Drivers must cooperate to make it work. So, yea, everyone on earth needs to read this. Share it with everyone you know. Anyway, the drivers in the lane that is not ending must give drivers merging into their lane enough space. Merging drivers will be entering the opposite lane in between every vehicle over there, taking turns. It’s really no more complicated than that. It’s just so uncommon that it’s scary. Here’s a video to demonstrate. 

The idea is to do this safely. If traffic is moving quickly, you should merge early, as the video demonstrates. The zipper merge is best for situations in which traffic is moving slowly and the highway is full. Just in case, make sure there’s no barrier preventing you from continuing a straight path in the case that there is not enough room to merge into the next lane. If there is a wall or a ditch ahead, just slow down.

Are you skeptical? You wouldn’t be the only one. But the zipper merge has been studied. It does help traffic flow and it is a good standard that can help us avoid confusion if we all know it. This video explain how it helps. Our friends in Germany all use this technique. Why shouldn’t we?

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