How many times have you been driving home from work and gotten stuck in traffic because of construction? You always try to be patient and understanding. As soon as you see the lane closing sign you move over to the correct lane and inch along as you see car after car whiz by you in the closing lane.
Why do they do that? Do they really think they’re more deserving than the row of cars waiting in the correct lane? Don’t they know that by not merging early, they are causing more congestion?
Although you may not see the benefits right away, merging at the point where the lane actually ends, known as a zipper merge, is actually considered by many to be the most efficient way of managing traffic through lane closures.
Consistency, Order, and Fluidity
According to a Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) report, 40% of traffic congestion nationwide is a result of bottlenecks caused by merging. In addition to long delays and increased road rage, these bottlenecks and merging problems cause over half a million accidents per year.
However, the FHWA report states that a simple change in merging technique can help decrease these numbers. It suggests that utilizing all open lanes for as long as possible, and then using the “zipper merge” technique to allow one car from each lane to take turns through the bottleneck, accidents will be less likely to occur and the flow of traffic will improve.
If drivers can be trusted to take turns and not take advantage of other drivers, the FHWA predicts that the zipper merge could have several additional benefits besides controlling accidents. These benefits include:
- Reducing congestion. Since one lane doesn’t have to completely stop to allow several cars in at a time, the traffic flow should remain constant and fluid.
- Decreasing road rage. Since all lanes will be moving at the same rate and traffic in one lane won’t bypass the traffic in the other lane, there is no need to get angry with the drivers around you. Also, drivers must take turns to pass through the bottleneck which adds a sense of fairness and cooperation.
- A 40% reduction in overall backup time and length. Since traffic will be split into both lanes up until the conversion point, long backups will be cut almost in half, allowing cars to get closer to the bottleneck point faster instead of having to wait in line.
- Eliminating confusion. If the zipper merge is universally adopted as the proper way to merge, then the confusion and hesitancy that is rampant in merging now will be eliminated. All drivers will know exactly when, where, and how to merge.
Merge Opinions Unzipped
Now that you know the possible benefits of the zipper merge, has your opinion changed? Do you think this technique could work to reduce traffic back-ups? Sound off in the comments section!