Traffic Trouble: How Should Motorists Merge in Construction Zones?

Roads in North Texas are more and more crowded everyday, so we all know the frustration of being behind the wheel, as several lanes of traffic merge down to one.

A study conducted by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute revealed more than 50 percent of the drivers surveyed in Dallas-Fort Worth, said merging was one of the most stressful things they do while driving.

"I'd say that lane changing, going back and forth is hard," said Brittney Flexer. "It's just so many cars are coming so fast, it's difficult."

Brittney is taking a drivers education course in Southlake.

She's learning all of the basics, but there's one thing our state leaves out.

"There's no written etiquette that's taught on how to merge, here in Texas," said Scott Cooner, an engineer with the Texas A&M Transportation Institute.

His research helps TXDOT implement changes that make driving on Texas roads, safer.

In the past, he recommended lowering wrong way street signs from 7 feet down to 3 feet, so motorists can see them better.

His study on merging uncovered an interesting fact.

"A lot of drivers would say, well, I don't know what to do," he said.

So what should drivers do as they approach a lane closure?

Get over as soon as possible and avoid the lane that's closing, or stay in the lane that's closing as long as you can and get over as you approach the merge point?

"You have those who think that's the exact wrong way to do it, " Cooner added.

But it's not!

Staying in the closing lane as long as you can is actually best for the over all traffic flow.

It's called a Zipper merge.

States like Minnesota, Michigan, Missouri, Kansas and Washington actively teach it.

Cooner's research found Zipper merges reduced back ups by up to 50 percent and allowed more people to get by that merge point per hour.

The hard part, he admits, is relying on other drivers to take turns.

"It takes people doing what Texas has promoted for a long time, driving friendly, " Cooner said.

Some day student drivers in Texas may learn about Zipper merging in the class room.

A spokesperson in Rep. Craig Goldman's office said the Fort Worth state representative is aware of the issue. As a member of the house transportation committee, staffers acknowledged it could potentially require legislative action so students are taught this technique in driver's education classes down the road.

For now, Brittney and her classmates will have to lead by example and hope others catch on.

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