Do you know what the term “zipper merge” means? Click here to learn more about this traffic technique and why it may become the preferred method for merging.

What are the benefits of the zipper merge?



Highway merge signMerging safely, whether from an on-ramp, in a construction zone, or as a result of an accident, can require a lot of patience and lead to a great deal of frustration. Since traffic laws don’t specifically address when and how a driver must merge into traffic, the crucial decision is left to individual drivers. Unfortunately, this lack of guidance results in nearly 250,000 accidents per year.

Although you may have never heard the term before, the “zipper merge” has been gaining traction as the preferred method of converging when multiple lanes shrink into a single lane. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) defines the zipper merge as a technique where multiple lanes of traffic remain in their lane up until the convergence point. Once the cars reach the bottleneck point, they alternate (like the teeth of a zipper alternating into the pull tab) into the open lane. In theory, this technique allows individual drivers to merge smoothly.

The FHWA even goes so far as to say that if used properly, the zipper merge provides better overall traffic safety and efficiency than the early merge in areas of congestion.

The Benefits of the Zipper Merge

The zipper merge technique is supposed to pace incoming and converging traffic to reduce traffic flow issues and fender benders. Keeping traffic flowing together improves the merging process by:

  • Reducing the length of traffic backups. Rather than having one long backup line, the zipper allows for two shorter lines. This split not only allows traffic to get to the bottleneck point faster, but also allows drivers to get off before the bottleneck to avoid the backup.
  • Reducing stand-still congestion. In theory, the zipper merge allows a constant flow of traffic since no one lane must completely stop to let multiple cars over.
  • Reducing congestion on on-ramps. Since backups will be shortened, on-ramp traffic will not have to wait for an opening to move over. Therefore, interchanges will continue to flow and limit congestion.
  • Reducing frustration. Instead of pushing ahead of one another, drivers are forced to take turns at the bottleneck. Therefore, since both lanes are moving at the same rate and cooperatively, there’s no need for road rage or to get angry with the drivers around you.
  • Reducing confusion. If the zipper merge is universally adopted as the one and only merging technique, drivers will not need to hesitate when merging as they will know exactly when, where, why, and how to get over and let others over.

For more information on merging etiquette, collisions, or accident options feel free to browse our extensive collection of articles and responses to frequently asked questions. If you require a more in-depth analysis of your claim options, please contact our office directly by filling out the convenient scheduling form or by calling us at 800.636.3676 for a FREE consultation.