By Jeremy Rochow
Published: Thursday, June 20, 2019
Merging can cause a whole flurry of emotions. It can create confusion – how do you know whether to give way or zip merge? Or it might leave you frustrated – most of us have been cut off by someone merging incorrectly at one time or another.
But it doesn’t have to be difficult if you know how to share the road and merge correctly.
Here are 3 common merging scenarios and how best to deal with them.
1. Merging when entering a freeway or expressway
Picture this: you’re driving along the Southern Expressway in the left lane and passing an on-ramp. All of a sudden, a car merging into your lane cuts you off, travelling well below the speed limit.
You slam on the brakes and curse to yourself. You’ve probably seen this before. In fact, according to a 2015 RAA survey, only half of South Australian motorists know how to merge properly at a freeway or expressway on-ramp.
Indicating early and letting other cars know your intention is vital when merging onto a freeway.
After you turn onto the freeway’s entry road, give a change of direction signal.
While on the entry road, wait until you see a safe gap in traffic – remember, you’ve got to give way to any vehicles already on the freeway or expressway.
When it’s safe, accelerate along the entry road, ensuring you reach the same speed as traffic travelling along the freeway.
Finally, merge with the traffic and keep a safe distance from the car in front.
Motorists already on the freeway can do their part to make it easier for merging drivers.
If you’re driving down a freeway in the left lane and notice a car trying to merge, consider moving into the centre lane if it’s safe to do. This will make it easier for the merging driver to enter the freeway or expressway.
2. Merging at roadworks
With all the roadworks being carried out in South Australia at the moment, it’s common to see the yellow sign (pictured below) indicating 1 lane is blocked and traffic needs to merge.
If your lane is closing, you’ll have to give way to traffic in the lane you’re entering. Most motorists in the closing lane will immediately look to merge when it’s safe to do so.
Some motorists, however, will look to get ahead and fly down the closing lane before trying to push in.
RAA Traffic Engineer Matthew Vertudaches said this can frustrate the motorists who’re waiting patiently in the open lane, which is moving slowly.
“The motorist who is driving down the closing lane needs to keep in mind that they have to drive with due care and attention, and only change lanes when it’s safe to do so,” Mr Vertudaches said.
We’ve looked at what you have to do legally when merging from a closing lane. Let’s now take a look at different opinions on how to merge at roadworks.
According to a traffic study by the Minnesota Department of Transportation, using a zipper-style merge as the lane closes is the most efficient way to keep a road moving.
This is where the vehicles in the closing lane continue until they’re no longer able to, and merge with the open lane. You must give way to the car in front, creating a zipper effect.
This means 1 lane of traffic won’t whizz by, while the other comes to a standstill – both lanes will only slow down slightly.
In fact, the Minnesota Department of Transportation found it reduced the length of backed up traffic by up to 40%.
3. Merging when a lane is ending
Sometimes motorists get confused about whether or not they need to give way when a lane is ending. The best thing to do here is look at the line markings.
If your lane is ending and you need to cross a broken line, you’ll have to give way to any vehicles in the lane you’re entering. You might need to stop and wait until there’s a safe gap.
Then there’s zip merging: when 2 lanes become 1 and line markings end. In this scenario, you must give way to drivers that have any part of their vehicle ahead of yours.
By doing this, you should flow in front of each other one-by-one like a zipper.