Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The "Me First" Principle Of Merging

The following text was copied from here: http://www.dmv.org/how-to-guides/merging-into-traffic.php. I chose to include the text so I can RANT and emphasize particular passages.

At first, I was not sure the driving laws hadn't changed over the years, but this text re-assures me that they have not. Drivers are just stupid. And aggressive. I have emphasized certain passages in blue to drive home the point that these laws have not changed. Grrrr....

Please see further commentary below the quoted text.

Merging is a relatively straightforward driving skill to learn, but that does not change the fact that the act instills fear in some motorists. This can be chalked up to the high speeds generally involved, and the fact that the task needs to be accomplished quickly, with little room for error. But after a few rounds of practice, your behind-the-wheel confidence will be enhanced and the technique of merging will become somewhat natural.

Still, the procedure requires extreme awareness because the last thing you want to do is have the driver in the vehicle that you are merging in front of end up in your passenger seat. Nor do you want to go into a panic and wander off from the acceleration pedal and land onto the shoulder. Here are some tips to help you become a major league merger.

The Art of Entering Gaps

Merging is designed to permit vehicles to enter and exit a highway without causing disruption in the flow of traffic. Highways are equipped with on-ramps and off-ramps, which generally connect to acceleration and deceleration lanes.

The idea behind this is when you pull onto the entrance ramp, you slowly begin building velocity. At the point where you can make eye contact with the highway, you need to immediately start assessing the gaps and the speed of existing traffic. From here, you should turn on your signal to reflect your intent to other drivers to merge onto the roadway.

Then use the acceleration lane to match the speed flow, and ease your vehicle into an appropriate gap before the acceleration lane ends. Some highways give you slabs of asphalt that are long enough for a jet to take off; others, especially on the East Coast, are so short you will need to make quick decisions or yield.

A successful merge entails you entering the highway almost at or at the speed limit, while causing no disturbance in the speeds of the vehicles behind you.

Tips for Keeping the Flow

Where the entrance ramp ends and the acceleration lane begins, note the continuation of the solid white (or yellow line). Do not cross this line and head out onto the highway. It serves as the transition from the on-ramp to the lane, and crossing it can cause other drivers to miscalculate your speed and possibly collide with your vehicle. This line serves as a good indicator to begin your acceleration and gap-finding quest.

While your driver-side mirror is essential to observing traffic behind you prior to merging, you will also want to actually turn your head and check your blind spot before easing onto the road.

You should always decide on the space you will shoot for before accelerating rather than getting to full speed and then deciding. Why? Well, you only have so many yards in the lane, and if you are at full speed before you know where you are headed, you might run out of room prior to finding a traffic gap. This will cause you to have to stop, cut another driver off, or wind up on the shoulder―definitely not good merging techniques.

If you are not familiar with the on-ramp or highway section you are entering, use extra caution because you may run into all sorts of interesting obstacles including: "no merge lane" signs, which mean you will need to yield, which may require you stop before moving into traffic; and signal lights that stagger vehicles up the entrance ramp, usually during times of high traffic.

During rush hour, when the entire traffic system slogs along at a turtle's gait, the fine art of merging takes on new importance to keep the surge moving. Many times you will be driving along the highway at a good clip, and the next thing you know you are in a mass of bumper-to-bumper madness.

It lasts for a few minutes, opens up, and then clogs again at the next exit. Sometimes this is simply due to the sheer number of vehicles trying to enter or leave the road on a single stretch of asphalt utilized both as a deceleration and acceleration lane. But, you can also bet there is some improper merging going on, causing the entire system to break down into the proverbial bottleneck.

To keep a good pace in heavy traffic, merging should work like the teeth on a zipper. One vehicle merges; a vehicle already on the highway passes; another vehicle merges; a vehicle already on the highway passes, and so on. Of course, in this day and age of aggressive driving, it may not always work out this way.

The Exiting Factor

When you choose to exit the highway, you may not technically be merging (or being absorbed into traffic); rather, you are leaving the collective, but it still requires a few words.

In cases where there is only a deceleration lane and an exit ramp, you simply need to signal your intentions to other drivers and pull over. You will use the lane to slow your vehicle and continue on to other roads.

However, when the acceleration lane and the deceleration share the same portion of road surface, it can be tricky. Basically, if the vehicle entering the highway is at top acceleration, you will want to pull into the deceleration lane behind it. If you are moving at a greater clip than the vehicle just entering the acceleration lane then you will want to exit in front of the vehicle. Again, theoretically, this will keep the flow of traffic moving smoothly.

Unfortunately, a whole lot of people in this area are of the "aggressive driver" type. I had a full dose of it this morning, too. A very long line of cars had built up in the right lane, and we had two lights to get through before the on-ramp to the highway. This is normal.

What is totally irritating, though, and actually serves to worsen the situation, are the people who are "too good" to get in line, so they speed up in the next lane and charge to the front, then force-merge into stopped traffic to get into the right lane. If you are stopped, and (like me) are not kissing the bumper of the car in front of you, then there is space enough for someone in the next lane to wedge their car in front of you in such a way that you cannot move without letting him in. This totally pisses me off. It also stops traffic in two lanes, not just one. The really great feat, though, is the car that waits until the solid white line of the on-ramp, just inches before the jersey wall barrier, to begin the force-merge. Now THAT is exciting, let me tell you!

Who taught these people to drive?!?!?!?! What part of "aggressive" driving is not apparent? Where is a cop when you need him/her? C'mon, people!!!!!!!

I swear, I want a car cam. I'll record all this stupidity, and, having captured the license plates of the cars involved, I'll turn them in. Not sure that will help, but it might make ME feel better. Maybe. Unfortunately, the people who should be reading this will not. :-(

And my every-two-week massages? Out-of-pocket, to boot? Is it a wonder that I need them? I am actually amazed I am still alive to rant! Sigh ... Thanks for listening. I feel a little better for having unloaded. And I get to experience it all again tomorrow. Oh, joy.