Study shows ‘zipper merging’ is safer; Midstate police disagree

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – You’ve probably become annoyed by one of those drivers who speeds up and waits until the last moment to merge, but a new study shows that’s actually how you should drive.

You may think of a zipper as something that is on your clothes, but it’s actually a way of merging. A new study advocates for it, but police in Cumberland County say it often has a negative effect.

“Most people don’t even realize what it is. It’s where you have two lanes that go down into one. The idea is that you will have every other car get into a line and proceed through the restricted lane area. What often looks great on paper doesn’t necessarily work well in practice,” Hampden Township police Chief Steven Junkin said.

The Colorado Department of Transportation touted “zipper merging” in a recent study, claiming it could reduce merging delays by up to 35 percent. Junkin doesn’t completely agree with it.

“What happens is then either they don’t let the person in, they get aggravated, it turns into a road rage type incident, or we get even worse. We get people involved in crashes,” Junkin said.

“Whenever I’m merging, I’m staying aware of what’s behind me,” Harley Mabius said.

Mabius is on the same wavelength as the Junkin. He merges early and is aware of what’s behind him.

“One thing that would annoy me would be those people that come to a complete stop,” Mabius said. “I feel that they should be looking over their shoulders at all times.”

PennDOT as a whole likes the idea of zipper merging, but the Midstate district stopped pushing for it after hearing concerns from police.

“It’s not a race,” Junkin said. “You are trying to get from point A to point B, same with every other car on the roadway.”

Police say the key to merging is slowing down, being considerate to other drivers, and taking your time getting to where you need to go.


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