Zip merging – what’s the score?

It drives some to distraction. Others can’t see what all the fuss is about. So what’s the deal with zip merging?

Cars in Traffic Jam

If you’d have hired a car or van from our Leeds depot recently and headed towards the M62, you’ll have found a slip lane closed for maintenance work. The signs alerted road users to the issue well in advance, leaving drivers to face a familiar conundrum: do you get in lane early because there’s a closure ahead, or do you stay in the outside lane and merge only once the lane starts to disappear?

It’s a story we hear virtually every day. You were sat in a line of queuing traffic in your rental car, whilst inconsiderate drivers ploughed past on the outside despite knowing full well that up ahead the lane was closed and they would have to merge.

It seems to be a peculiarly British thing to do: to evacuate a lane that could be free flowing for another half mile, only to join a queue that isn’t moving anywhere. And then complain about the drivers who get ahead of you.

If you’re the person who feels content to join the queue, you’ll claim it’s driving etiquette. If you’re the person who merges only at the last minute, you’ll claim you’re actually reducing the overall length of the queue and benefitting the traffic flow. And you’d be right. You’re supposed to leave merging to the last minute.

The problem isn’t that drivers use the closed lane until the last minute; it’s that not enough of them do. If more of us used both lanes and merged in turn (so called zip merging) traffic would move faster and, because more vehicles would be travelling at roughly the same speed as they began to merge, there’d be far less road rage directed towards those who at present are seen to be stealing someone else’s place on the road.

So next time you’re out in one of our rental vans or cars and there’s a road closure ahead, it really is ok to stay in your lane and zip merge in turn. It’s down to everyone else to adapt their view of what constitutes polite driving.

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