You’ve seen them before — those people who stop at the beginning of the entrance ramp to wait in line for an opening. And then there are those other types of drivers — the ones who zoom down the lane and then wait to merge at the last minute. Who’s doing it right?
One of the most stressful lessons I learned when I started driving is merging, specifically merging onto the highway. Not only do you need to pay attention to the drivers behind and in front of you, you also have to keep an eye on two lanes to your right or left. It’s no wonder merging is one of the most dangerous things you have to do as a driver.
In most states, the person merging into traffic assumes responsibility for doing so safely. This means the driver must be able to keep track of what the drivers around her are doing in order to merge without causing a collision.
So how do you merge correctly?
First, understand the point of the entrance ramp is to give you the opportunity to increase your speed and ultimately enter traffic safely. Do NOT stop at the beginning of the ending lane to wait for a gap in traffic. Unless there is a stop or yield sign, or an emergency, you should keep driving until you are able to merge into traffic. Often times, drivers will slow down or come to a complete stop before merging, which is extremely dangerous. More accidents occur while merging than passing.
Now that you know what you’re supposed to do, here’s how to do it.
Prepare to merge by seeking a gap between cars on the highway where you can merge. Continue increasing your speed until your reach the space you selected. Again, do not stop or slow down. Having said that, use common sense. There may be unforeseen circumstances that may require you stop. In those cases, I flash my hazard lights to let other drivers know they should be careful.
Ideally, you should use the “zipper merge,” which means taking turns to join the queue. One car from the right, one car from the left, right, left, and so on.
Once you have secured your spot, make sure you are following the flow of traffic. If you can, leave enough room for 2 car lengths in front and behind you.
Did you find these tips helpful? Did you know this was the proper way to merge into traffic?
Are We Merging Onto the Highway All Wrong?/ RoadandTrack.com
Urge to Merge/ NYTimes.com
How to Merge Into Traffic/ DefensiveDriving.com