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It's not budging: When traffic is bad, stay in both lanes until you have to merge

MnDOT likes the zipper merge.
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You're not being a jerk, and you're not budging – when traffic is backed up and you see a "lane closed ahead" sign, stay in that lane until you're forced to merge.

The "zipper merge," as it's called, isn't just 100 percent following the law. It's actually what officials want you to do, Ken Johnson with the Minnesota Department of Transportation told BringMeTheNews.

Here's a video that shows the zipper merge:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FCLF2tyW0TU

It may seem like you're going against everything you were taught in driver's ed when you wait until the lane ends to move over, but Johnson said it's the safest and most effective way to merge when traffic is heavy and slow.

And when that point comes, cars in both lanes should take turns to merge into the single lane.

(Note: This doesn't apply when traffic is light and moving at regular highway speeds – in that case, merge into the continuing lane as soon as it's safe.)

Also, let zipper mergers in

If someone is driving in the lane that ends, they're not doing anything wrong.

Johnson wants people to remember this, and not appoint themselves "traffic cops" – don't drive down the center line to block people from using the lane that ends or prevent people from merging.

That behavior can lead to road rage, rear-end crashes and other unsafe driving behavior.

Why it's better to take turns

If motorists are using both lanes of traffic instead of all trying to move out of the lane that's ending, it can reduce backups by up to 50 percent, a 2004 MnDOT study found. (This is key in urban areas, where backups can block intersections.)

And because drivers are using both lanes, the difference in speed between the lanes is reduced. MnDOT says drivers have less of a reason to switch lanes if everyone is driving the same speed, and if they do change lanes it'll be safer to do so.

When everyone is driving the same speed – even if it's slow – they are all "equally" disadvantaged, the agency says. This helps reduce road rage and other unsafe driving behaviors.

It also makes the merge go more smoothly. Johnson says drivers aren't stuck accelerating, then stopping, then accelerating. Instead, motorists are "gently moving up," then merging in.

More people are catching on

Some people are still reluctant to use the lane until it's time to merge, but more and more people are catching on, Johnson explained.

And he expects that to continue, noting the zipper merge is now actually in the state driver's manual. So as younger drivers continue to hit the roads, they'll already know the best way to merge in a construction zone.

"I sometimes argue that as long as we get half the people to do it and take the extra lane, we'll have safer roads," Johnson said.

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