Driving Etiquette – Merging Traffic Must Yield

I drive on expressways daily and am always cautious of merging traffic.  I frequently witness acts of rudeness and road rage as drivers attempt to make a spot for themselves in traffic whether they have the right of way or not.  Recently, merging traffic has become a sensitive issue with me, not only on the expressways, but also on surface streets as the drivers in my area attempt to navigate around fallen trees and wires in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike.

Today, another driver passed me on the right only to find workers in that lane cutting down a fallen tree. (I guess the big and colorful “Right Lane Closed Ahead” signs were not big or colorful enough for them to see.)  Without using a turn signal, this driver made an unsafe lane change into the line of traffic that did see the signs and almost caused an accident.

In November of 2007, the University of Dayton conducted a study to better understand the reasons behind traffic accidents occurring at the point of merging traffic.  One of the results, that should wave a red flag, showed a very high majority of drivers think the car merging into traffic has the right of way.

On the contrary, the law states the through traffic has the right of way and merging traffic must yield.

This does not, however, mean the through traffic should not give the merging traffic a chance to pull in.  By all means, if you can, safely pull over into the next lane to allow the merging traffic to enter.  Or be polite and adjust your speed so the merging car can enter in front of or behind you.  I’ve had drivers in the through traffic play games with me and sit right next to me until my lane ended.  If I increased or decreased my speed, they did the same while laughing the entire time.

Consider using your turn signal.  All cars have them on board for a good reason.  They can be used to effectively communicate your desire to change lanes to other drivers.  If you see someone with their signal on, please be polite and allow them to merge in.  Too many drivers take the defensive and say, “I’m not letting anyone get in front of me.”

If we all follow the laws and work together, perhaps road rage and accidents could decrease significantly.  Not only would this be a step towards better driving etiquette, but it would also be a big step toward being green.

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