'Zipper merging' may help clear congested roadways - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

'Zipper merging' may help clear congested roadways

Source: KCBD Source: KCBD

You know the feeling: you're backed up in traffic, stuck in a construction zone, and you see another driver zip through the lane next to you, even though the lane ends.

Diana Ortiz can't stand it.

"And they'll just zoom in fast, and get in front of you and cut you off! I'm like okay, well.. God bless you!"

Frustrating, right? But, according to some road engineers, this action, called "zipper merging" can actually improve traffic flow in congested areas by allowing other drivers to "zip" or merge into the open lane one at a time.

"Because if not they're going sit there all day and if you're not allowing them to get in, obviously something's gonna happen," Sergeant John Gonzalez with the Texas Department of Public Safety said.

The idea is fairly simple: when two lanes shift to one, drivers should merge at the last second, instead of slowing down and changing lanes early. According to TxDOT, this allows more room for drivers, increases safety, and can reduce traffic backup by up to 40 percent.

The challenge? Getting drivers to work together.

"Everybody taking turns, that avoids more accidents happening. You always have to look out for others. It's not so much your driving skills, as it is the other drivers because they're not even looking out for you or anybody else," said Lubbock driver Rachelle Martinez.

"They don't like to let you in, and they try to push you over, but it's nonsense, because you've got this over here," Christopher Ford said.

Fortunately, in Lubbock, zipper merging is only necessary in certain areas.

"It's going to be the unfamiliar area where you see some construction," Sergeant Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez recommends avoiding those areas if you can, but if you're in that situation, just be courteous.

"We've got to respect one another as drivers, and if you know that car is moving into your lane, allow that car to move in. The more you work together, the easier it is," Gonzalez said.

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