You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Don't Be A Canadian When Changing Lanes; Learn To Zipper Merge 2017-09-07 Daniel Barron
Don't Be A Canadian When Changing Lanes; Learn To Zipper Merge © Canada Don't Be A Canadian When Changing Lanes; Learn To Zipper Merge

The city of London, Ontario is in the midst of a campaign that encourages its motorists to merge properly in construction zones. A lot of you probably had no idea there was a "right" and "wrong" way to merge, but according to numerous studies, there very much is. There's only one catch: many of you will need to learn to be less Canadian, because when it comes to merging, politeness could very well be the cause of longer traffic delays.

Video: Don't bother following these car maintenance myths (provided by Consumer Reports)

Replay Video

If you've been driving for any amount of time, you've likely had to merge onto a highway. As per Ontario's Ministry of Transportation handbook, the basics of merging can be drilled down to a few simple steps, regardless of where you live: enter the on-ramp, check your mirrors and blind spots, signal and increase your speed, and merge smoothly into traffic.

You might also like:

Watch this and learn how to pronounce car brands correctly

Finance Or Lease: How To Win At Buying New Cars

How to avoid getting stuck in traffic

Seems simple enough (and we'll rant another day about people not even being able to follow those basic steps), but things get a little more complicated in heavy traffic and/or when approaching construction.

Similar to what London is doing, cities have been trying off and on to get drivers to embrace the idea of zipper merging – to the point where Germany has made what it calls "Reißverschlusssystem" (the "zipper method") the law.

How it works is straightforward: instead of drivers merging the moment they see an opening while in the "acceleration" lane, they instead wait until they're at the very end of the merging lane, at which point the vehicle to their left lets them in. The next vehicle merges by being let in, and so forth, forming a type of "zipper" of cars that are moving in smoothly and without interruption, one after the other.

The problem is that many Canadians view waiting until the last moment to merge as rude, so some make a point of moving over as early as possible. Likewise, there are already-merged cars that try too hard to be polite, and will let those drivers in early, and sometimes even let in multiple vehicles, all in the name of not looking like a rude motorist.

Here's the rub, though: studies, such as one done in 2004 by the Virginia Transportation Research Council, prove that under certain conditions, the "late merge" concept "produced a statistically significant increase in throughput volume for only the 3-to-1-lane closure configuration." In other words, when there are three highway lanes combined with a merging lane, the zipper method can help alleviate the ever-hated bottleneck. By some counts, it could help improve traffic flow by 40 percent.

One significant issue that study notes, though, is that it isn't easy changing peoples' behaviours while behind the wheel. Besides getting people to understand how to physically zipper merge, there's the matter of getting people to psychologically understand that A) it can help get traffic moving faster, and B) it's not rude for a driver to wait until they're at the end of a merge lane to "scootch in." Quite the opposite, in fact.

It's important, then, to keep that in mind the next time you're on the highway and things are slowing to a crawl because of construction, a collision, or whatever else. Instead of seething from your car seat because someone is using the entire merge lane, think of how much quicker traffic would be moving if everyone did that, and everyone took their turn to let someone in.

The worst thing you can do, of course, is purposefully block a merging vehicle. Besides slowing things down, it's positively un-Canadian. And no one likes that.

Photo: Oregon Department of Transportation on Flickr

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon