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Merge in turn!

Every morning on the drive in to work, I’m amazed at the number of drivers who are seemingly incapable of grasping the concept of "merge in turn."

For those who’ve never heard of it (perhaps you don’t drive, or are living in a world of blissful ignorance) this is the name given to the optimal method of getting two lanes of traffic need to merge into one lane.

The concept is simple – both lanes should be full of traffic until the point where the one lane is closed, whereupon every car in the open lane lets one car from the closed lane move in front of them. This way, the road space available to traffic is used better than if everyone just queues in the open lane – and if people drive intelligently, traffic need never come to a halt.

It’s called "zip merging" over in the US, because the traffic movement looks like a zip closing when viewed from above.

There are two points on my journey to work where merging in turn helps ease the delays people face getting into the town centre, and yet I’m constantly seeing people who are either:

  • daydreaming and just aren’t paying attention to their surroundings
  • selfish
  • unfamiliar with the concept

I can’t really fault people for being unfamiliar with the idea, I don’t believe it was taught during driving lessons until relatively recently, and it may not even be a standard part of the driving curriculum – although the Highway Code does make at least two specific references to it:

Rule 134: You should follow the signs and road markings and get into the lane as directed. In congested road conditions do not change lanes unnecessarily. Merging in turn is recommended but only if safe and appropriate when vehicles are travelling at a very low speed, e.g. when approaching road works or a road traffic incident. It is not recommended at high speed.

Rule 288: Where lanes are restricted due to road works, merge in turn (see Rule 134)

But the selfish folks who don’t want to give way to someone else (usually because they’re driving what they consider to be an "inferior" car) and those who aren’t paying attention? They can sod right off, before their attitude writes my car off!