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Zipper merges: You're doing them wrong

Posted at 8:37 PM, Apr 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-21 20:37:33-04

MICHIGAN — It's construction season, so pay extra close attention to road signs, especially one in particular that people always seem to get wrong.

We're talking about zippers — not the kind you would use to close the barn door. Think about that guy you hate that passes everyone and drives all the way up to the front: you don't want to hear it, but he's actually doing it right.

“There really is a reason for the zipper merge,” says Nick Shirripa with the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT). “There are some benefits to it."

We know zipper merges are annoying, but that's mainly because most people aren't doing them right.

“We should be using all of that closed lane,” Shirripa advises. He means using two lanes, alternating and taking turns.

But Nick’s realistic. He knows we'll have to fight some urges to let that person in, or even be that person, but zipper merges are just plain safer. They reduce congestion by up to 40% and cut back on car crashes by as much as 50% ... again, when they're done right.

“It's safer. It's more effective. It's more efficient,” says Nick. “We all have to get past that mentality that that guy is cheating; that guy is cutting in line.”

“People seem to be very polarized on this topic and I'm quite surprised by that,” says IT specialist Adam Claude, who started a Facebook page where members post tips, stats and anecdotes about safe merging. He says activity always picks up around construction season. “I would figure people would want to use an empty lane and drive all the way up as far as they can and merge at a certain point, but people have some very strong opinions. People either love it or hate it."

Will anyone listen to us? That's to be determined, but with major projects going on right now on I-96 and 196 — and I-94 and I-69 — it's a good time to give it a try on your next drive home.

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