According to the Department of Transportation, a zipper merge occurs when:

...motorists use both lanes of traffic until reaching the defined merge area, and then alternate in "zipper" fashion into the open lane.

Now more than ever before, I'm fairly certain that the majority of Boise drivers were talking through driver's ed the day they taught the zipper method. Do I have scientific data to support my theory? Nope. I do, however, have about eight years of firsthand experience and personal observations on Gem State roads to back me up.

Traffic zone after traffic zone, it never fails. The moment an Ada County municipality decides to widen a street or pitch a new housing community, an overwhelming number of Treasure Valley drivers come unhinged. For the life of me, I just don't understand the valley's disdain of this totally helpful driving maneuver. While part of me gets peeved on a personal level with stingy lane-hogs, my larger concern is a matter of safety. It's a concern Brian Sorenson, a certified state traffic engineer, shares with me. On reducing congestion and work zone crashes, Sorenson says, "Raising awareness for motorists to use the zipper merge in construction zones will help reduce crashes, speeds, and congestion."

Additional benefits of the zipper method include:

  • reducing the differences in speeds between two-lane roads
  • reducing overall traffic backups by up to 40%
  • reducing overall congestion at freeway exchanges
  • driving at the same speed increases fairness and equity across all lanes

I don't know about you, but the DOT had me at "reduces crashes, speeds, and congestion." Sold yet? For the sake and safety of all Idahoan motorists, I certainly hope so. If this is the first you're hearing of the zipper method, or if you're familiar but unpracticed with it, the Minnesota Department of Transportation created an instructional YouTube video motorists can refer to.

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