You had a long day at work, the boss was constantly on your case, and to make matters worse, you had to stay an extra two hours to finish up. So you couldn’t be more excited to get in your car and head home.
You turn on the radio to your favorite music station, traffic is flowing nicely and you’ll be home in no time. But then you see a sign that says “lane closed ahead.” You know what that means, traffic is about to come to a halt.
The lane you are currently in is the one that will be closed off. So you immediately switch lanes, thinking that you’re being courteous to the other drivers, but according to experts, you’re actually slowing traffic down even more.
At first, you might think that people who wait until the last second to merge are portraying bad driving etiquette, but transportation departments in various states are encouraging that same move that is upsetting you.
The move that upsets you every time you witness it is called the “late merge,” or the “zipper merge.” It is when drivers who are in a lane that will eventually be closed continue to stay in that lane until they’re forced to merge.
According to Tom Vanderbilt, who is the author of the book Traffic: Why We Drive The Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), the merging late and the purposed symbol you see on the road does not represent greed but it actually improves the commute for the rest of the drivers.
This is not a new system that has been implemented; Colorado actually started the “late merge” about 10 years ago. They would post signs 2 miles from the point where the lane would end. The first sign said, “Use both of the lanes during congestion.”
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