Reconsidering Late Mergers, or How the Zipper Rule Can Save the World

By Gerry Zhu

Drivers everywhere should have had at least once in their long driving careers experience the pain of merging into a lane when the roads are congested. You know what this is: where your lane is going to end and there is this adorable sign that is foretelling your fate as you check the exceptionally long line of cars in the lane you are supposed to merge with. It sucks when people don’t stop and give you a large gap for you to merge into, right? In Germany, they don’t have that issue, nor does any other place that has a brain or two or three or four, because they have the zipper-merge rule.

When should the cars on the left merge? Studies show as late as possible makes for smoother traffic flow. Photo from Wikipedia.
When should the cars on the left merge? Studies show as late as possible makes for smoother traffic flow. Photo from Wikipedia.

In Rapid City or any much larger center of civilization, situations where you might have to stop and wait or forcefully make your way to the other lane can be rare depending on what time you drive and what is happening when you are driving. However, situations do still occur and boy do they occur more than they are needed. At that time, it is a game of slow movement and waiting for the perfect moment to merge. This can cause accidents and many drivers see the merging car as horribly rude, especially those considered ‘late mergers.’ The statistics prove our manners wrong, however: late merging decreases accidents and actually makes traffic faster. Yes, I am saying that, in other words, being a rude driver can get you home sooner, though it would be better if the drivers were polite or if the holy zipper-merge rule were to be instated (“Zipper Merge”).

Minnesota is a state like any state, yet it has an idea that is ingenious and similar to Germany’s zipper-merge law. There, one should move to the end of a lane then proceed to merge late, since an early merge can actually slow down traffic (Machkovech). In fact, when one merges late rather than early, it allows “15 percent more traffic to move forward than early merging” (“Rules of the Roads”).

The benefits of late merging are huge and will cut down traffic, which correlates to how fast you can go home. Even Rapid City can benefit from the zipper-merge, which is usually designed for larger cities. I mean, seriously, sometimes the roads can get congested and if they do, I suggest try to be a good pal and let those late mergers in; or be a late merger yourself. If you do let those guys in or merge late yourself, you are actually merging the correct way. Early merging is wrong, despite what a hefty portion of the population seems to believe.

Works Cited

  • Machkovech, Sam. “The beauty of zipper merging, or why you should drive ruder.” Cars Technica. Cars Technica. 24 July 2014. Web. 6 Jan. 2015.
  • “Rules of the road: There’s little law but lots of anger when it comes to merging.” Penn Live. PA Media Group, 5 Aug. 2012. Web. 6 Jan. 2015.
  • “Zipper Merge.” Minnesota Department of Transportation. State of Minnesota, n.d. Web. 6 Jan. 2015.