What is the ‘zipper merge,’ and why you should be doing it

JACKSON, Wyo. — Can we all get on the same page and not in the same lane?

It’s called the zipper merge. It works. It is the most efficient way for traffic to funnel from two lanes into one lane.

So why is everyone afraid to try it? Likely because you don’t want other drivers to think you’re being rude, selfish or arrogant.

Traffic experts suggest using both lanes right up until one of the two lanes actually closes. At that point, an alternating “you go, I go” method (think ‘zipper’) will get everyone more expediently into a single lane in the most efficient manner.

Maybe we are just too polite in Jackson Hole. But what usually happens is most motorists begin getting over into a single lane as soon as they see a sign instructing them to do so. This practice wastes a good lane and causes unnecessary delays, stringing vehicles out for far longer than need be.

So, feel free to remain in the lane that is closing until you get close to the point where your lane is actually disappearing.

Of course, the zipper merge relies on a key ingredient: reciprocating grace and cooperation. Too often, a driver behind the wheel of a car in the lane that chose to merge, like, two miles ago, sees Johnny-come-lately in the other lane as some kind of road hog looking to pull a fast one. Don’t hate. That’s exactly how the zipper merge was meant to work.

So, to review. As you approach a two-lane merging into one lane scenario, pick the shorter lane (ideally, they would be about equal in length) and remain in your lane until the point of merge, then alternate.

Good luck out there!

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