A Jan. 11 letter to the editor discussed merging in traffic, (“Don’t block lanes; learn to use the ziper merge.”) The author chastised “vigilante” drivers “cling[ing] to outdated beliefs” and disrupting the “predictability” of driving by failing to zipper-merge.
Zipper merging means that two lanes of traffic come together like a zipper: One vehicle from one lane, followed by another vehicle from the other lane to create a single merged lane. When used properly, it makes sense and does improve traffic flow.
Sadly, many drivers have taken this concept to an unsafe “zipping-merge” mentality – i.e. zipping ahead as they approach a merge to overtake and force their vehicle into the lane ahead of the unsuspecting driver in front of them. That unsuspecting driver often does not even see the zipping vehicle emerging from their blind spot until they are forced to hit their brakes to avoid striking it.
Clearly this practice is unsafe and not what was intended by the RCWs. In fact, safety is also addressed in our “Rules of the Road” statutes and comes with a $250 fine per infraction addressed in “Negligent Driving.” This statute requires that drivers exercise “reasonable care” when driving. While “zipper-merging” can be done safely with the appropriate use of turn signals and merging at a speed that matches prevailing traffic, “zipping” to merge at a higher rate of speed than the lane you are merging into is not safe and clearly a negligent driving violation. These issues are covered in the Washington Driver Guide.
Folks, we are all in this together! Let’s all be courteous, but most of all safe. The few seconds you gain by zipping ahead of your fellow drivers is not worth the potential for a collision that will take much more of your time to fix. Match your speed to the lane you are merging into. Be sure the driver you are merging with sees you and can make room to allow you to merge safely. Let’s all return to a courteous driving mindset. Let your driving neighbors merge appropriately and be aware of the damage that unsafe driving causes.
Traffic is awful. Causing a collision will only make it worse. Use zipper merging, but appropriately and with care.