How Zipper Merging Can Save You Money

We’ve all been stuck in construction traffic: endless lines of slow-moving cars, orange barrels, and not a sign of work being done. You’re frustrated and so is everyone around you. The next thing you know, some sports car is flying up the left lane, pulling in just before they hit the cones. Now you’re one car further from the salvation of three lanes.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but that car cutting in at the last minute has it right. At least half right. Zipper merging, where cars flow in every other vehicle is the right way to merge in lane restrictions.

Here are some facts to think about:

  • In large construction zones, traffic engineers have planned where to reduce lanes before the work zone begins.
  • These engineers spent months reviewing traffic patterns for that road and studied data so they can plot out the best solution for closures.
  • Everyone in traffic is going through the same thing; one or two cars isn’t going to delay you that much.

No one wants to “lose” when it comes to traffic. But think about it—if the road were open, would you care if that car got in front of you? You wouldn’t notice. Traffic slows things down so you have more time to notice, but essentially it’s just the inevitable happening.

What can zipper merging do to help you?

  • If everyone got into the habit of proper zipper merging, it would save time in traffic.
  • Less stop-and-go traffic would save you on fuel, along with other wear and tear on your vehicle (less slamming on your brakes and having to hit the gas from a dead stop).
  • A smoother traffic flow is less likely to have accidents.

The time savings might be small, but in a world where we are always connected, every second counts. The fuel savings are also small, but as prices creep up year after year, every drop helps.

The real saver is avoiding accidents. Sadly, as we become more and more connected, we become more and more distracted. If you’ve ever taken a second to look around in traffic lately, phones seem to pop up more as people sit. Maybe it’s to find a new route, but it’s probably a “stuck in traffic” selfie.

According to HG.org, 4,000 accidents can be attributed directly to construction traffic since 2011. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported 3,166 deaths in 2017 due to phone-related distracted driving.

So what can you do to help?

  • Stay in your lane as long as you can.
  • Don’t give in to distraction.
  • Stay calm.
  • Don’t pretend to know better than the experts.

That last one is probably one of the most rage-inducing parts of construction traffic. That one vehicle, usually a large SUV or truck, that decides the lane ends behind their vehicle. They’re not the hero by blocking the lane and keeping anyone from “cutting up,” they’re destroying an expertly devised plan.

So next time you’re heading into construction traffic, stay in your lane. Leave a little space for a car to merge over. Don’t try to be a hero. And most important, even though you’re moving slowly, stay focused on driving.

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