New bill requiring education on zipper merge headed to Olympia

Jan 29, 2019, 5:52 AM | Updated: 7:33 am

zipper merge...

(Oran Viriyincy, Flickr)

(Oran Viriyincy, Flickr)

I have been a huge zipper merge supporter from the beginning. It eliminates backups and moves traffic more efficiently, but most drivers in Washington appear to have no idea how to do it, or incorrectly assume they do.

RELATED: Washington drivers need Montana’s zipper merge signs

It’s simple: When a lane is ending and the traffic is heavy — I’m talking stop-and-go or worse — drive all the way to the end and merge over at that point, taking turns with those already in the lane. You are not cutting the line. You are using the pavement engineers gave you to use.

Drivers already in the lane who speed up to prevent those from merging over are doing it wrong. So are the merging drivers who cut over at a 45 degree angle, blocking both lanes.

“It’s not only the people in the lane that is being merged-into, that are potentially trying to protect their spot,” State Representative Jesse Young said. “It’s also the people in the lane you’re trying to merge out of that don’t do it right.”

Young sees this lack of merging understanding on the roads around Gig Harbor, and he has introduced a bill that would require zipper merge education and testing for new drivers.

“The new drivers going through this would have the opportunity to not only learn it, but be tested on it to make sure that all new drivers are made aware of it,” Rep. Young said.

His bill wouldn’t require the zipper merge be put into the driver’s manual, but it would provide for teaching materials and a video to be made available. As it stands now, zipper merging is not taught, and merging, in general, is barely covered; it’s not even a half page in the driver’s manual.

I asked Young why he thinks Washington drivers don’t understand how this works.

“I think generally we are a politer group of people up here, and that explains why people don’t merge correctly from the merge lane because they feel like they are cutting,” he said. “And because we’re so polite, we feel aggrieved if someone is perceived to be cutting us.”

RELATED: Basic Washington traffic laws that are broken all the time

But doing it wrong can lead to accidents and potential road rage, and that is one of the key issues for Young on this bill.

“I hope that this is viewed as a solution that doesn’t require a lot of money, doesn’t require new taxes, and can make everybody just a little bit more productive in how we get to work and deal with our lives every day,” he said.

A few more items about zipper merging: It doesn’t really apply to an “exit only” lane. Once you see that bright yellow sign designation that section of road as exit only, you need to get over.

I’m sure we each have our favorite spot where no one zipper merges. I have a top two for you: Where the I-5 Express Lanes end in Northgate, and any ramp between I-5 and Mercer.

And one more thing to eliminate more confusion: The zipper works in congestion. If the roads are open, merge when it’s safe to do so. The moratorium on speeding up to keep the person from merging-in is in effect at all times.



Chris Sullivan

Full I-405 closure coming this weekend

This is not the weekend to hit the Eastside because Interstate 405 (I-405), south of Bellevue, will be closed the entire time.

1 day ago

Image: SR 99 north in Seattle was closed due to a massive fire on Tuesday, July 9, 2024....

Steve Coogan

SR 99 north in Seattle reopens after major brush fire closed it for hours

All lanes on State Route 99 north end at the 1st Ave Bridge in Seattle were blocked Tuesday due to a fire. It reopened Wednesday morning.

3 days ago

sr 11 buckles heat...

Frank Sumrall

Stretch of SR 11 Highway buckles under extreme heat

WSDOT had to shut down State Route 11 to just one lane after concrete panels under the asphalt had buckled due to the region's recent extreme heat.

3 days ago

Image: The Good To Go Flex Pass sticks to a car windshield with small Velcro tabs and can be switch...

Chris Sullivan

‘Convincing’ Good To Go! toll scam rears its ugly head

Scammers are at it again, trying to get your personal information with bogus scam text messages posing as Good To Go! toll reminders.

4 days ago

Photo: Washington State Patrol troopers responded to a semitruck crash on I-5 north just before Sou...

Julia Dallas

Weekend I-5 delays: Semitruck driver suffers serious injuries after crash

Washington State Patrol troopers responded to a semitruck crash on I-5 north just before Southcenter on Sunday.

5 days ago

first avenue bridge...

Frank Sumrall

Southbound SR 99 closed over First Avenue Bridge for several hours

The First Avenue bridge on State Route 99 (SR 99) has been closed for multiple hours Saturday due to police activity.

6 days ago

New bill requiring education on zipper merge headed to Olympia