What Is The Zipper Merge?

Zipper Merge

Living in Dallas – Fort Worth has its upsides. There’s always plenty of things to do, more restaurants than we could ever eat at and very mild Winters. But, there is one major drawback: traffic. Living in a highly concentrated urban area means continual growth and construction to accommodate that growth. It’s no secret that the bulk of our highways are under some form of construction at all times. It feels like Interstate 35W in Fort Worth has been under construction for the better part of a decade. With knowing that there’s a good chance that anywhere you go in the metroplex, it’s a good idea to know what a zipper merge is.

Why is it called a zipper merge?

A zipper merge is when a lane is being blocked off ahead of you and they are forcing your lane to merge into another lane. In a perfect world, the drivers in the lane that is being closed are waiting until the moment when they have no more room to drive in their lane and are merging into the other lane, much like a zipper (hence the name).

The problem with the zipper merge is that drivers tend to believe that merging before they have to, in anticipation of the merge, are causing traffic to slow to a much slower pace than is necessary.

Why does this happen?

A slowdown is inevitable, but it doesn’t have to reach the point of stopping completely! When you zipper merge, both lanes of traffic are traveling at the same speed up until the point of merging. When a driver merges too soon, it slows down the lane that is not merging and causes multiple slowdowns, resulting in stop-and-go traffic. Long story short: merge into the open lane when you are forced to, instead of trying to get a jump on the cars in front of you. You may think you’re doing a good deed, but you’re likely causing the traffic to be a little slower that it has to be.

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