Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The one weird old trick to make driving in traffic quicker and less frustrating

On Wonkblog today, a collection of traffic engineering factoids, including one about humanity's collective rejection of a driving technique that would indisputably improve their lives: zipper merging.
We're all basically idiots when it comes to merging. Whenever a road shrinks from two lanes to one, it would actually be most efficient for everyone to stay in their lane right until the point where the lanes converge and then execute a "zipper merge." But most drivers feel bad about doing this and tend to shift over to the open lane early. This causes congestion.
Here in Minnesota, the Department of Transportation has instituted a "Don't Be Minnesota Nice!" campaign to encourage zipper merging.  Ten minutes on I-94 will confirm the campaign's failure.

So that's my little tip to make driving more tolerable for everyone: learn when zipper merging is appropriate, and use it!  I zipper merge without apology, and I can report back that it is fantastic.  Few things are worse than sitting in traffic; likewise, few things are better than roaring down a completely-empty exit lane, blowing by hundreds of stopped cars, and knowing it's all for the common good.  Zipper merging makes your life easier and, while other drivers may not appreciate it, it makes their lives easier too. There aren't many times in day-to-day life you can feel absolutely certain that you're doing The Right Thing and remain secure in your decision in the face of other people's disapproval.  But here, you are not only entitled to act with smug confidence that your own superior knowledge gives you the privilege to skip to the end of the line, but you're actively encouraged to do so by authorities.  Relish the opportunity.

1 comment:

  1. Does the "zipper merging is faster" theory account for spite? That is, the people refusing to let you merge out of principle (something in guilty of).

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