In the second in Jagwire’s series of road-education articles, I will explain an other misunderstood feature of the road: merging.

Seen on interstate on-ramps and instances when a lane ends, merging zones have been the subject of much scrutiny and research. Additionally, it continues to be a troublesome part of driving for many drivers.

There seem to be two schools of thought when it comes to how they work. The first advocates getting over proactively, as soon as possible — aptly named “early mergers.” The second purports waiting until the very last minute to merge. Numerous studies have investigated both strategies, and have time and time again proven that the second is both safer and more efficient for all drivers.

The easiest way to explain how merging should work is to visualize a zipper; two lanes full of cars “zip” together, with cars from each lane going one-after-another to combine the two lanes into one. It is not worthwhile to get over early, as this clogs up one lane while leaving the other wide open. This then creates dangerous situations as cars can come in at high speeds and pass many cars, which in turn can create road rage.

Merging is actually one of the most simple driving maneuvers, and can be very safe and efficient if done correctly. It might be hard to do the first few times — many drivers consider themselves to be very courteous, and don’t want to offend
other — but rest assured that by getting over later you are helping everyone get to their destinations sooner.

It should also be noted that when merging on highway on-ramps, it is the duty of all drivers to accelerate to high- way speeds prior to the end of the ramp. This ensures that merging onto the actual highway can be done safely, and also prevents accidents and rage from drivers still on the ramp.

As with roundabouts, the quicker that you can get out of everyone else’s way, the safer and happier everyone — including you — will be. So, next time you come to a merging zone, check your blind spot and think: “zipper.”

Illustration by Ryx Zan

About Levi Hencke

Levi is a junior who likes traveling, sailing, and the Tar Heels. He was born in Denver, CO, but has lived in Chapel Hill for most of his life. CHS is the second high school he’s attended, but by far his favorite.