It’s called the “Zipper Merge.” You might not recognize the name, but it’s a safe bet that you have seen it in practice at least once or twice. Using a “Zipper Merge” means that like a clothing zipper, cars weave in alternating patterns to form a single lane. On a freeway, highway, or street with a lane reduction from two lanes down to one, this driving technique allows traffic to merge more safely and with less reduction in speed.

Does the “Zipper Merge” method work in reducing traffic congestion? The answer has been proven as, yes! This has become the preferred method of merging and it allows you to get where you are going a lot faster.

Unfortunately, many drivers around the country still prefer to merge in a way that causes congestion, high stress, and accidents. With an empty and clear lane for at least 1000 feet in front of them, drivers will slow down, turn on their blinker and wait until somebody in the next full lane lets them in. This is wrong! Early-mergers among us are just creating a single long, slow line of traffic that’s not only frustrating for all drivers, it’s inefficient because it minimizes the amount of usable road. The image below represents when an early-merge should ideally be used.

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Courtesy Minnesota Dept. of Transportation

Let’s take a closer look into how a “Zipper Merge” actually works. In this system, every car in the lane that’s ending drives all the way up to the front of the line and takes turns merging with the other lane of traffic. Because the system uses all the available road space for as long as possible, it cuts congestion by 40 percent. It also reduces crashes because all the traffic is moving at the same rate of speed rather than some cars going very fast while others poke along.

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Courtesy Minnesota Dept. of Transportation

“Zipper Merging” requires constant awareness of the traffic around you and clear communication with other drivers through your car blinker and visual contact. Watch the movements of vehicles in the lane you’re merging with. If someone is slowing to open a space for you, respond to it by accelerating slightly. Make brief eye contact with the other driver, if possible. This means they are watching you and ready to work with you. Watch for them to respond to your intentions with their steering, braking, and acceleration. Adjust accordingly.

Most important thing to remember in using “Zipper Merging” is to drive with clear intent. Meaning, if the driver merging next to you is speeding up, send a clear signal that you’ll make room for them ahead. If they slow down, make a measured but obvious move to take the front position while merging.

Now, will everyone start to use the “Zipper Merge”? Time will tell. In some states, such as Minnesota and Colorado, they instruct drivers in this method as part of their state’s Driver’s Ed. Other states such as Washington, Missouri and Kansas have all endorsed the driving method and are starting to integrate it into their training as well. A lot of us though are stubborn in our driving practices. We’ve been told to not be “aggressive” in our driving and be patient and accept the long lines of congested traffic while a perfectly good open lane is next to us. In this instance, it’s okay to be a little aggressive and still keep it safe for other drivers around us.

 

Drive Safely!

 

Pete Solis Collision Center is El Paso’s Auto Body Shop! With over 47 years of experience behind us, we are the top choice for bodywork, paint, and more. We are the home to ICAR certified professional body shop technicians, as well as quality Sherwin Williams Automotive Finishes. Pete Solis Collision Center is located at 1434 Lomaland Dr. in El Paso, Texas. Give us a call today at (915) 599-8666. We are open Monday through Friday from 8:00am to 5:00pm.

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