Share this story...
zipper merge, motorcyclist
Latest News

Chokepoints: Drivers, you’re still doing it wrong

Seattle drivers can't seem to figure out how to properly merge. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

It’s time for me to don my preacher hat and take the pulpit.

I’m revisiting one of the most common pet peeves from our listeners: the general lack of understanding when it comes to merging.

More from Chris Sullivan

There is a certain phenomenon that is particular to Northwest drivers. It is the belief that they own the space in front of their car and they must defend it. That usually manifests itself with a driver speeding up to prevent you from merging into an open space. That driver is also usually someone who does not understand the zipper merge and why it is so important to reducing congestion.

For those of you unfamiliar with the zipper merge, it is simple. When your lane is ending, for whatever reason, you drive all the way until the lane ends and then get over, even if there is a lane of cars backed up next to you. You then take turns at the end of the lane.

“The zipper line is just like the teeth of a zipper; it’s every other car,” State Trooper Brooke Bova pleaded in an online video.

Zipper merging usually works best when traffic is backed up and moving at slower speeds. If you are at freeway speeds, feel free to get over whenever there is room.

“The correct way to do the zipper line is to ride it all the way to the end, turn the signal on, and then move over,” Trooper Bova said. Do not cut over at a 45-degree angle across the white lines or gore point and jam into that line of cars. That just backs up that travel lane and the merge lane. “That actually relieves traffic by quite a bit.”

This is how our roadways were designed. And if you are stuck in that line of cars, do not push your nose into that merge lane to prevent people from passing you. That is dangerous and you are in the wrong.

More notes about merging:

  • If you are entering a freeway, be sure to get up to freeway speeds, look for space as soon as you get on the ramp.
  • Cars already on the freeway are supposed to move over a lane, if they can, to allow you merge.
  • If there isn’t room, you on the ramp have to yield, but that doesn’t mean stop at the end of the ramp. This also doesn’t mean that the driver already on the freeway should speed up to prevent you from merging.

“Do not expect that person to let you in,” Trooper Bova said. “If they want to be a jerk and not let you in, just wait.”

Learning how to properly merge and being less selfish behind the wheel can actually go a long way to reducing congestion.

Tell Chris about a Chokepoint or ask a traffic question @KIROTraffic via Twitter.

Most Popular