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Why all Minnesota drivers should adopt the zipper merge

Heavy traffic on highway

If you’ve ever driven through road construction in Minnesota, you know this familiar sight: cars lined up in a single lane, bumper-to-bumper, miles ahead of a merge. Dare to drive in the open lane, zooming ahead of the line, and you’ll likely be met with honks and glares. Yet they’re actually the ones in the wrong.

While lining up may seem “Minnesota nice,” it can cause major traffic jams and safety issues. Instead, drivers should adopt the zipper merge.

Why it’s the right thing to do

The zipper merge involves taking turns at the site of the actual lane closure – not miles beforehand. Drivers use both lanes up to the merge. It’s vastly more efficient than lining up in a single lane, and it can reduce backups by as much as 40 percent, according to MnDOT.

It’s also safer. When traffic in a single lane is at a standstill, and drivers in the open lane fly past a highways speeds, the risk of serious accidents skyrockets. Drivers seeking to escape from the gridlock are forced to bolt in sudden and dangerous lane changes. With a zipper merge, by contrast, both lanes should move in tandem at roughly the same speed, largely doing away with the need to change lanes (and making it far easier to do so when necessary).

It benefits everyone

Construction zones are dangerous enough to begin with. Frustrations among drivers are running high, and you don’t want to be the rogue driver who gets cut off by angry vigilantes at the merge. If all drivers adopted the zipper merge approach, it would benefit everyone. So spread the word, and the next time you encounter a backup, don’t feel guilty for using the open lane.

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