Wait, Is Waiting to Merge Later the Efficient Thing to Do?

Recently we’ve come across opinions about the best way to merge into traffic from the News & Observer, Lifehacker, Ars Technica, and The New York Times.

Specifically, the question is what to do when traffic is congested and you’re in a lane that is ending.

Should you try to merge immediately, even if there are 30 cars behind you that also need to merge? Or, should you drive until you’re out of road before attempting to merge, allowing those behind you to utilize the lane before it ends?

To save you time, here’s what each of the above articles think:

The News & Observer talked to people who recommended not merging until you’re out of road. The benefit of this is that it creates more merge points instead of bottlenecking into one.

It feels like you’re being a jerk, but they say it’s the most efficient approach.

Lifehacker also found a source who recommended using the entirety of the ending lane, but only if you also are going to let people in. If people refuse to let the “jerks” in, that creates a second bottleneck, making the situation worse.

Ars Technica presents evidence that zooming ahead and merging late reduces traffic by 40 percent, which is a huge figure. Sailing ahead to decisively grab an open spot creates zero disruption of traffic, but it also hurts feelings.

People are shocked when someone swoops in ahead of them. It feels like you got splashed with water. You’re not hurt, but the brain can’t help but get a little upset from being shown its vulnerability.

The New York Times gets very philosophical in its approach and doesn’t say which side is right. Its attitude might be best expressed in a highway patrolman it quotes as saying, “…chill out. Enjoy life. You’re spending too much energy pounding the dashboard.”

All four sources seem to be consistent in saying that if you’re already in traffic, you have to let people in. However, they also seem to indicate that traffic flows faster if some people zoom ahead to merge late.

Do you have an opinion on the great merge debate? You’ll have plenty of time to practice and refine your position since the Triangle is expected to receive so many new drivers in the next 10 years. Happy merging.

Wait, Is Waiting to Merge Later the Efficient Thing to Do? was last modified: March 9th, 2022 by Leith Lincoln

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