graphic illustration of zipper mergeLate merging, also known as zipper merging, is a highly controversial issue. Some drivers believe it is the most efficient way to merge two lanes of traffic before a constrution zone, and others think that drivers who merge at the last minute are somehow cutting the line. It turns out that, when done properly, zipper merges are the best way to decrease lanes of traffic. However, they are rarely done properly.

When a lane is closed in a construction zone, a zipper merge occurs when motorists utilize both lanes of traffic up until the defined merge area. Then each lane takes turns, alternating pass-throughs in a "zipper-like” fashion, into the open lane. The Department of Transportation suggests that zipper merging reduces potential accidents and increases efficient traffic flow in construction zones. However, although the theory is commendable, the practice has its own flaws; namely human intervention, entitlement, and ignorance.

Risks of Zipper Merging With Uncooperative Drivers

When motorists disregard courtesy and safety or negatively respond to stressful situations, the result can be disastrous. When it comes to zipper merges, risk factors include:

  • “Entitled” drivers. Many motorists will utilize the “closing” lane to simply bypass traffic, not as a way to be more efficient. If you ride the closing lane in order to get ahead of everyone else, this sense of entitlement will unfortunately follow you to the actual merge point, possibly causing you to dangerously push into traffic when there isn’t room. The problem is that since your lane ended, legally you have to yield to traffic. This means that you must wait until someone actually lets you in . If no one will let you in and you decide to push in instead, you could cause an accident.
  • Impatient motorists. On the other hand, if you did merge early, and were stuck in the backed-up line, you’re generally not in the best of moods when you finally approach the merge point. Regrettably, this means that you may be overzealous with keeping the closed lane mergers from getting over. Although you technically have the right of way, and don’t legally have to let anyone over, courtesy and merging etiquette laws suggest that if you can let mergers over, you should. Unfortunately, stress and road rage can cause niceties to be thrown out the window.
  • Road rage. Never underestimate the power of road rage. Sitting in traffic, barely moving an inch every five minutes can enrage even the most patient person. This anger can be multiplied when you witness someone else flying by like he’s better than you. If you’re not careful, rage can take control and cause you to make risky mistakes like blocking the lane as another motorist comes barreling through. Likewise, if you’re the one riding the “closed” lane, you must be wary of those drivers who have reached their limits.
  • Lack of sharing leads to worse backups. When entitlement, rage, and lack of common courtesy affect your and other motorists’ abilities to take turns, a merging bottleneck can cause horrendous traffic buildups. Instead of a constant flow, you’ll have dozens of cars trying to push their way through without any semblance of order. The “open” lane technically has the right of way, so they’ll try to push through, while the “closed” lane will also try to inch in, until the “closed” lane stops for them. At that point, instead of taking turns, several closed lane drivers will take the opportunity to barrel through, consequently taking advantage of the one decent driver who paused to let the one person in in the first place.

Road Rage and Zipper Merging 

Although the zipper method seems like a good idea in theory, the actual practice of this method depends on every motorist knowing the proper procedure. If there was a way to make sure drivers would adequately and courteously follow the rules of taking turns, the zipper merge could prevent many rage, confusion, and construction merging accidents.

Consequently, if indecency and entitlement win out, you could wind up suffering far worse ramifications than an extra 15 minutes in traffic. If that’s the case, and you suffer severe injuries due to a merging accident, call us immediately. We’ll provide you with a free consultation to discuss your case and make sure you’re fully aware of your legal rights and options. Don’t allow someone else’s mistake to upset your life; let us help you secure the future you deserve. Call us at 540-341-0007 or fill out our contact page today.



Andrew Thomas
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Civil litigation attorney in Virginia and is AV Rated by Martindale-Hubbell.

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Working with Andrew and his team has been--without exception--one of the most pleasant, productive, and professional experiences of my adult life. I was seriously injured in an accident in July, 2018, in Virginia. I was driving a company vehicle that was registered in Maryland, for a company that was based in Wisconsin. And I live in New Jersey, where my personal vehicles are insured. The several jurisdictions involved presented a very unique case that demanded an experienced and nuanced strategy. I found Andrew Thomas (of Dulaney, Lauer, & Thomas) through some online research. And it is noteworthy that Andrew has worked the other side of the aisle--he used to work with insurance companies. Andrew took on my case with the assurance that he would work it with no less energy than he does each of his cases. At each turn, and with each question I had, Andrew and Paralegal Misty kept me informed, returned my calls, provided detailed explanations, and kept me feeling like I was in the loop and there was an eventual end to our journey. Nearly five years after the accident, we settled out of court for a significant sum in recognition of my personal injuries. The settlement was much more than I had expected. And without Andrew & Misty, I am sure the award would have been much less. If you are looking for professionalism, knowledge, dedication, answerability, responsiveness, integrity, and human-level communication from a personal injury attorney--look no further. You have found him. Thank you, Andrew and Misty. Gary Daley
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