The "Lane Ends - Merge Now" Sign Is There for a Very Good Reason

There are improper and proper ways to merge—here's how you should do it.

Ask several people to raise their hands if they think they're above-average drivers, and most everyone will have a hand in the air. Obviously, at least half of them are wrong. In fact, given the bell-shaped nature of normal distributions, we know that a lot more than half are wrong and about 70 percent of drivers are clustered somewhere between one standard deviation above or below the mean. Only about 15 percent of drivers truly qualify as "above average" or better—which is to say chances are that you're actually an average driver, or worse. Even if you're not—and you're totally not—five out of every six of your friends are, so share this advice with those who need it. Here we present another installment of the Average Driver's Guide to Not Driving Like a Jerk; read more here.

The "Lane Ends - Merge Now" sign is either frequently misunderstood or maliciously ignored. Given that most folks on the road don't seem to be fully conscious, we'll give them the benefit of the doubt and figure there's no intentional malfeasance. But let us make it very clear: This sign is the equivalent of the "LINE FORMS HERE" sign at restaurants, theme parks, and museums—you know, throughout daily life as a pedestrian. So ignoring it, driving up to the end of the lane, and forcing your way into the line of those who've already merged is like walking past the line at a movie theater on a Saturday night and cutting in front. If you wouldn't do that on foot, you shouldn't do it in your car, either. (And if you would do that on foot, maybe go see a therapist about your entitlement issues.)

Again, this is about traffic flow. Merging when there's plenty of space and no threat of imminent impact with a solid object or departure from the road surface means you and the people around you can complete the maneuver at higher speeds, which means traffic doesn't back up as much behind the merge, which in turn means people aren't having to come to a complete stop two miles back just because Fred and Sally are entitled twits. This is also to say we're in agreement with the zipper method, where those in the merging lane allow those who need to merge the space to safely do so at the rate of traffic. We're just saying that the mergers absolutely shouldn't wait until the last possible moment.

There are many signs which effectively mean the same thing, most of them variations on the theme of "Right Lane Must Turn Right." Same rules apply: Using that lane to cut ahead of traffic, especially if you thereby force traffic in the lane you're entering to slow significantly or stop, is a real jerk move.

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