Q: What are the risks of zipper merging?
Depending on your viewpoint, late or “zipper” merging is either a wonderful idea or completely infuriating. Zipper merging during lane closures is meant to encourage drivers to utilize both lanes up to the point of conversion, whereupon they will then take turns passing through the bottleneck area one at a time. Although this concept seems pretty easy, people tend to come down strongly on one side or the other.
Pro Zipper Merge
When you see one lane backed up for a mile and the other lane (which will eventually end) completely free, why shouldn’t you use the empty lane for as long as possible? It’s not your fault that the other drivers are choosing to wait in line. You’ll just merge when you absolutely have to at the bottleneck. To you, this seems more efficient anyway. Instead of causing excessively long backups, drivers should just utilize both lanes, and then take turns merging at the convergence point.
Anti Zipper Merge
On the other hand, when you’re stuck in a backup and witness other drivers using the compromised lane as a way to bypass you, you rightfully get upset. What entitles them to cut ahead? Everyone in the through lane would love to get ahead as well, but the lane does eventually end, so then what? Other drivers who have been patiently waiting now have to let the passers-by in? Why should some drivers get to move to the head of the line? While others have to wait?
So, which argument holds more credibility? In theory, the zipper merge is, in fact, more efficient, less confusing, and reasonable. However, due to human nature, stress, and some people’s need to get ahead of others, this technique can also be extremely dangerous.
Late Merge Risks
The Minnesota Department of Transportation has begun to implement the zipper merge method into highway protocol with mixed results. The method is recognized to be more efficient in theory, but the actual practice relies on drivers recognizing and actually following the rules. This is what presents the problem. According to a National Highway Traffic Safety report, 65% of merging accidents are caused by the merger forcing his way into the through traffic lane instead of actually waiting for his turn. This “driver entitlement” notion is the main problem with the late merge concept—people get easily frustrated when they’re made to wait. This leads to anger, poor decisions, and unfortunately, many accidents.
Therefore, no matter what your opinion is about zipper merging, or how efficient you may think it is, human nature causes it to present some risks. These include:
- Entitled driver unpredictability. Many motorists will utilize the “closing” lane to simply bypass traffic, not as a way to be more efficient. This entitlement usually follows these drivers to the bottleneck, whereupon they won’t wait their turn and decide to push in where there isn’t room, potentially causing an accident.
- Worse congestion. If motorists fail to take turns at the convergence point and just push in whenever they feel like it, not only will the through lane never move, but they could easily cause an accident which will block the only point where traffic could legitimately get through.
- Impatient “open lane” motorists. Although utilizing both lanes will decrease backups to a point, the drivers that are in the correct lane and do not have to merge are far less likely to allow the closed lane mergers to get over, even though courtesy and merging etiquette laws suggest that if you can let mergers over, you should. Unfortunately, stress and road rage can cause niceties to be thrown out of the window.
- Road rage. Never underestimate the power of road rage. Traffic stress can drive even the sweetest person into becoming a crazed ‘warrior for justice.’ Sitting in traffic, barely moving an inch every five minutes can have its effects on even the most patient person. However, these effects can be multiplied when witnessing other motorists getting ahead of you, like they’re better than you. This frustration can quickly lead to poor decisions and tragic collisions.
When Coming Together Forces You Apart
No matter how you merged, or how the collision occurred, a merging accident can be confusing and resulting injuries can be catastrophic. This is why it is important to know where to turn when you’re a victim of a convergent accident. What you need is an experienced lawyer to help explain your rights and help bring your claim together.
Contact us today for a free consultation and review of your case. See how our experience and knowledge will work for you and your family.
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