Zipper merge: That driver who ‘cut you off’ might actually be right

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OLYMPIA, Wash. -- We've all been there before: You're driving down the freeway and you see a sign that reads, "Right lane closed in 1 mile."

So you turn on your blinker and slowly ease on into the left lane. Most people do the same ... except for THAT ONE DRIVER who passes everyone!

That's called "zipper merging," and transportation officials say it's the right way.

House Bill 1614 - proposed by Rep. Jesse Young (R-Gig Harbor) and Rep. Chris Gildon (R-Puyallup) - would amend Washington state law to include the "late merge zipper method."

Drivers would be required to learn the method in driver's education courses. They would also be tested on it when applying for a license.

Advocates say using both lanes for as long as possible shortens lines in construction zones by up to 40 percent. It also reduces the risk of accidents and eases driver angst.

What is "zipper merging?"

HB 1614: "Defines the late merge zipper method as follows: It applies when two lanes are merging, and consists of drivers using both lanes of traffic until reaching the defined merge area, and then alternating in zipper fashion into the single lane."

Several states have already endorsed the zipper merge method.

Minnesota started promoting the zipper merge idea in 2011. Missouri started promoting the technique in 2016 ahead of a heavy summer construction season. Kansas followed with a pilot project using electronic signs to warn drivers of an upcoming merge and encourage them to use both lanes. Last year, Montana also started educating drivers about the method.

As Q13 News has reported in the past, the Washington State Department of Transportation says the zipper merge is one of the most discussed topics when it comes to traffic. They even shared an image created by a Tacoma man that shows the proper way to merge.

"The zipper merge works to help keep traffic moving BUT - and it's a big but - it only works if everyone buys into it and works together," a WSDOT official said in 2017.

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