Illinois State Police: Learn How To Do The ‘Zipper Merge’
The quickest, most efficient way to merge for a construction zone probably isn’t what you think it is. It's the "Zipper Merge," and it will probably irritate other drivers.
And, the Illinois State Police want you to know that even if other drivers find it annoying, it's what you should be doing.
So, what exactly is the Zipper Merge?
The “zipper merge,” in which vehicles run in parallel until one lane physically narrows, is better for traffic flow than when vehicles form a single line early.
Yes, that means the driver you cursed for “cheating” by driving by you in the empty lane after you politely merged to the through-lane a half-mile before the construction zone was helping traffic flow more than you. Sorry.
An increasing number of states, including Illinois and Michigan, encourage drivers to use the zipper merge. Some even created flashing signs showing how and where to merge.
“It’s important to merge smoothly not to make sudden lane changes,” Michigan State University associate professor of urban and regional planning Teresa Qu said.
I don't know about you, but I've seen drivers give other drivers the finger for doing exactly that, and I've even muttered a few curses myself. It turns out that those entitled jerks on the highway were doing the right thing.
Man, that hurts.
Sgt. Tony Halsey of the Illinois State Police says that the longer the traffic is backed up, the higher the risk of rear-end crashes.
He also says while drivers think they have to get over right away when they see road construction signs ahead, they actually have more time than they think.
"Motorists think when the sign says 'get over,' 'traffic flow ahead,' 'merging in x amount of miles ahead,' that soon as they see that sign they need to get over. That's just warning and preparing them that the construction zone is coming up to get over," said Sgt. Tony Halsey.
"You're gonna see a lot of backed up traffic and it says 'road construction 3 miles ahead.' Motorists think when they see that sign that says 'road construction 3 miles ahead' or however many miles ahead that they need to get over in that lane. We ask and recommend that they stay in both lanes, and when they get closer to the construction zone within a quarter mile, then start getting over and merging. That's called zip merging," said Sgt. Halsey.
"One car to the left, and a car to the right. And then just alternate back and forth. If you start getting over in the left lane and construction starts getting backed up and it's already 3 miles away then you're backed up 4 or 5 miles, traffic is gonna continue to back up instead of using both lanes. Some motorists won't like that, semi drivers won't like that, it makes motorists unhappy, you may get some road rage, but for traffic patterns and for engineering and safety, it's much easier to go that route and stay in both lanes, then merge towards the end," Sgt. Halsey said.