Allow me to set the scene.

I’m driving merrily along the highway, and I begin to see signs indicating that the right lane is closed ahead.  Immediately cars start pulling into the left lane as they get the opportunity.  Others slow down in the right lane, waiting for a chance to pull over.  Of course, this causes the right lane slow down unnecessarily at various intervals, which annoys me, but I keep my cool.

I stay in the right lane.  I prefer to ride along until I am forced to merge.  I am not a jerk, trying to get 10 more cars ahead, like that will get me to my destination any sooner.  I just think it makes things go a lot more smoothly when people stay in their lane and then merge in, every-other-car, in a sensible fashion.  What I NEVER do is pull out of the lane that is NOT closing, over into the lane that IS closing, and speed up to see how far ahead I can get before pulling back over.  That’s obnoxious.  But if I find myself in the lane that IS closing, I will generally stay there until the merge.

So.  As I am nearing the end of the availability of the right lane, and the cars in front of me begin merging into the left lane, every other car.  There are still a few hundred yards left, but I fall into place with the other cars because it seems like the natural thing to do.  It’s a beautiful thing, really.

But THEN.  A few cars come from behind and zoom past us, trying to make the most of every last foot of the right lane, and a big 18-wheeler truck that is a few cars ahead in the left lane didn’t like that very much.  He decided to swerve into the right lane, purposefully to block those few cars from going any further.  It was obnoxious as well as clearly hazardous driving.  I mean, he wasn’t a dainty automobile by any stretch.

Well.  He met his match with the driver of a beat-up pick-up truck who wasn’t taking no for an answer.  The pick-up tried to pull around on the side of the road, but he began to run over the cones, and the 18-wheeler didn’t budge.  Still not willing to admit defeat, the pick-up slowed down, pulled in behind the 18-wheeler, and zoomed across to the left lane in front of a car that made the wise choice to let him go.

The 18-wheeler was forced to merge left, behind the pick-up, and we traveled along in the left lane for a couple of miles before the right lane opened up again, and we all went our separate ways.

So I ask you.  Is it considered rude to ride along in a lane that you know very well is going to be closed ahead, and merge at the last possible minute?  Or does it makes more sense to do so?  Is there a “rule” about this?  Discuss.

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22 Responses

  1. I always think it’s rude not to attempt to merge as soon as you know a lane is closing…. otherwise it ends up slowing everyone down.

    But then again, nobody in Indiana knows how to drive so this is how we end up with an oil tanker explosion and a semi full of illegal immigrants mingling on the highway.

  2. It sounds like you were in my state, California, for a minute 🙂

    I agree with you…continue in the lane and every other car merge into the open lane.

  3. I don’t think it’s rude at all. The lane is technically still a lane until it ends. With that said though, if people are deliberately using that lane to speed up and try and cut in front of others who are patiently waiting to merge, then I think it’s rude.

    I’ve had someone do that and almost run me off the road. I was pregnant and you know how upset preggos can get when they feel their unborn child’s life is in danger (ok, all moms get like that no matter what!). I actually knew the lady/recognized her from a mom’s night out I had attended. So rude.

    I recently wrote a post on bad drivers….might find it interesting since your post is on a similar topic.


  4. Depends on the situation. If you know you have to merge I wait until the end but not to the point of cutting someone off or running off the side of the road.

    Why do people have to be such jerks?

    Colorado drivers are not angels by any means but hubby and I have realized in Maryland if you slow down to let someone merge onto the highway they get confused, don’t know what you are doing, and also slow down, causing a huge problem, here you have to maintain your speed and let the mergers figure it out or people freak out. When in Rome do as the Romans do!

  5. I don’t think the 18-wheeler was being a jerk- its actually a pretty common thing for them to do. They have a better view of the road from way up there and I think they do it to prevent people from being jerks and trying to cheat the system. I’ve seen it done many a time and it usually works out pretty well.

    I generally try to go for a natural every-other car merge like you. But if its something like an advanced warning lane closure for construction, I get over when I can easily get over. Just my preference.

  6. It will depend… but when you can tell that the person IS being obnoxious and thinking they can “get there faster” by merging at the last minute, then it’s awful and rude. I have seen examples where I’ve seen the person come flying up the soon-to-be closed lane not even bothering to see if they can merge anywhere else except right at the last minute.

    Personally I think it’s best to get over when you can, and usually I merge over almost as soon as I see the signs. It’s too bad people can’t be that organized and do it as an every-other-car merge. Nice and orderly. I always hate “stop and go” traffic, I’d rather crawl along at a nice steady clip when there’s construction.

    Ugh. No matter what though… ROAD RAGE IS AWFUL. IT KILLS PEOPLE. It isn’t WORTH it.

    What we may need is some kind of aromatherapy that is standard in vehicles to calm people down. Like if the driver’s blood pressure rises then a blast of aromatherapy and classical music will come on automatically to make people chillax.

  7. I wasn’t sure where you were going with this story at first, I’m glad to see it wasn’t you trying to fight with the 18 wheeler!

    I too think people always try and merge right away and it causes a huge jam, so I always keep calm and look for the right opportunity to merge.

  8. Stay in my lane until it is safe to merge without slowing down traffic or causing a problem. But I HATE it when people try to take advantage and zoom around at the end. They are in no bigger hurry or are more special than anyone else on the road. I probably would have rooted for the semi.

  9. Ugh. This post made my blood pressure shoot up, Jo-Lynne, since I’ve been on the receiving end of that 18-wheelers treatment (and not just once, unfortunately).

    For the record, numerous studies have shown that the most effective, safe, fuel-efficient way to merge when one lane is closed is to merge at the merge. Experts call this “the zipper.” Everyone drives in the open lanes until the lanes begin to push together. Then everyone takes turns. First you, then me. Then you, then me.

    The only exception to the rule is when traffic is so light that you can merge immediately (or as soon as its safe) without anyone (including you) slowing down.

    People who merge as soon as they see the lane closed signs are actually creating huge traffic messes, wasting gas and wasting time. I’ve seen drivers merge 7 miles before the actual merge, leaving a lane wide open for 6.5 miles (and creating a near-stopped lane of traffic) because they obviously think this is the polite thing to do. It’s become such a problem is some areas, I now see transportation signs that say “Do NOT merge now. MERGE at the MERGE.”

    OK. I’ve said my fill. 🙂 I wish this were more publicized, because it’s perceived as a rudeness issue, and for most people, it simply isn’t.

  10. i read the comments. i still think its rude. not like you did, but like the last-minute guy did….here in Texas some guy in a big ole pick up will came racing up to the end and then push his way into the line…usually rudely.so, it is rude in that case!

    by the way…my daddy drives an 18 wheeler….never cut one off, they cant just stop those things on a dime you know…..cutting too close too the endangers your life & theirs, those trucks weigh a lot and will smush you to tiny bits that will have to be scraped off of the road….

  11. I usually start to look for a safe place to merge as soon as I see that the lane is going to close. In other words, sometimes it is right away and other times it is close to the end. Having been in an accident when someone pulled out from a business driveway in front of me while I was going 55mph has made me more of a cautious driver. My ten month old granddaughter was in the back seat (safely snuggled in her car seat) and did not end up with a scratch on her. I was badly bruised and had a cracked sternum. Don’t know about the driver of the other car.

    My husband, on the other hand, is a stay in the lane and merge every other one kind of guy. In makes him upset to see truck drivers trying to control traffic…especially if they are weaving and trying to control two lanes of traffic.

    To me, safety is the important issue.

    Have a happy Thanksgiving and stay safe!

  12. I think that it’s partly inevitable – even if everyone starts to merge at the very last moment – like a zipper, tooth by tooth – eventually the point of merging moves back slightly as each car merges when the one in front does, opening up the abandoned lane, and at that point people still in it will stop merging and move forward.

    But there is always the person who drives aggressively and is so self important that they can’t practise a little bit of patience and courtesy.

    Using your car (or truck) as a tool of aggression is beyond rude, it’s insanely stupid and dangerous

  13. Just started reading your blog a week ago, love it! From what I understand and actually remember from drivers’ ed, though not a law, you are supposed to merge at the merge as someone said above. Although it will eventually spill back and slow both lanes, it does actually keep the overall flow moving better. And I think if everyone merges at the end, you prevent more people from driving like the pick-up driver.

  14. I live in Germany at the moment and we were told in the European driving class that it is mandatory (like many traffic rules here) to do the every-other-car merge when a lane ends. It makes sense, and since everyone knows (and follows) the rule it usually works well! Why can’t that be enforced in the US?

    Of course there will always be the one person who tries to get ahead. We all laugh at them when we see them further up the road without advancing. Hehe.

  15. Been in this situation too many times to count! And I hate to disagree with you, but clearly it is in everyone’s best interest to merge as soon as possible, while there is plenty of room AND while all cars are still able (safely) to drive at normal speed. If everyone merged early, all cars could continue driving through the construction at 45 mph, without stopping or delaying. One car, waiting and demanding to merge from a slowed/stopped position, causes trouble.

    You see, when just a few people wait, and merge later, they force everyone to slow down to THEIR speed in the closed lane, which is often stopped by that time. The reason why everyone can’t just continue to drive along at 45 MPH in one lane, it’s b/c of those who refuse to merge early.

    And I hate to say it, but the 18-wheeler’s behavior is exactly how those truckers cope with this situation; he wasn’t being vindictive. These truckers are on the interstate 24/7, and they KNOW how correct merging is supposed to work. And they want it done correctly, not for their own convenience, but for economic reasons. Every minute wasted, stopped in line, costs them money. They know that those who try to push forward in the closed lane, and delay merging, are ruining it for everyone.

    Just my opinion, but my hubby and I have evaluated this driving headache over the years, and this is the conclusion we’ve come to.

  16. All I know is that most people start merging as soon as it’s possible for them to do so. However, the IDIOTS who don’t make it a mess for every one. It’s that sense of entitlement that some people seem to possess: I’m entitled to it and you are entitled to give it to me!

  17. I’m not a fan of changing lanes anyways, I don’t even like driving when there’s a lot of traffic. So if I know my lane is going to need to merge I will do it as soon as I have an opportunity just so I don’t have to deal with the stress of someone not letting me in when the lane does actually end. Thankfully I live where I don’t have to deal with a lot of traffic most of the time, and when we do travel I let my husband drive!

  18. I try to merge right away (only for my own sanity). I’ve missed the 1840 signs tho (in my wonderful driving ways) and been stuck at the last second praying for mercy from others to let me merge.

  19. In mine line of work (which shall hereinafter remain unnamed), I have had the opportuinity to work with many, many traffic design engineers. The reason that merge lanes are a certain length is that you are supposed to stay in the lane for as long as possible. When you merge too early, it actually disrupts the moving traffic more than if you go to the end of the merge lane to merge. So, that’s what I do and why 🙂

  20. I’ve always thought that merging as soon as it is safely possible (and without slowing down traffic) is the best option. Especially if the driver’s in the remaining lane are keeping an eye out for merging vehicles.

    Honestly, people that stay in the closed lane for as long as possible drive me batty (I still love you! 🙂

    ESPECIALLY those that are doing it just to move ahead a few cars!

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