Maneuvering through interstate traffic in Kentucky is stressful by itself, but once lane closures become part of the mix, it can be downright dangerous. Are you doing your part to minimize congestion and keep traffic flowing by practicing the zipper merge.
How does the zipper merge work?
In a perfect world, both open traffic lanes will be used for the longest amount of time possible before merging. At this point, cars from both lanes should merge into the open lane one after the other in the fashion of a zipper coming together. Studies show that the zipper merge:
- Reduces the length of a traffic backup
- Reduces traffic congestion
- Reduces the speed differences between traffic lanes
- Reduces construction zone car accidents
Alternatives to the zipper merge
In the real world, most people feel like they are “doing the right thing” by merging from the closing lane as soon as they see the warning sign. This is known as the early merge and is the biggest reason for traffic backups when one lane ends.
Early merge drivers slow the flow of traffic in the open lane because both mergers and drivers who allow the merger in must slow down. This behavior can cause sudden lane changes and even serious accidents.
What are problems with the zipper merge?
The biggest problem with the zipper merge is that it feels counter-intuitive to drivers. Merging into the open lane at the last minute can get on another driver’s nerves and even cause road rage, so most drivers are reluctant to do it. In addition, drivers in the open lane can feel that they deserve to be in that lane and will not willingly allow another driver in.
When some drivers are merging early and others are not letting people into “their” lane, it causes bottle-necking and more of a headache for all involved. The key conundrum is figuring out how to convince these drivers that early merging causes more traffic backups and that zipper merging is not an act of aggression, which could help reduce car accidents.