By Matt Schmitz on June 19, 2014
Jeez, Cars.com readers, tell us how you really feel. In May, we ran a story exploring the polarizing highway maneuver known as the "zipper merge," and subsequently unleashed a torrent of heated debate, with comments ranging from objective observations to sometimes violently emotional support for one side or the other.
Also known as "late merging," the zipper merge is used when traffic is reduced from, say, two lanes to one, typically in a highway construction situation, and motorists in the resulting slowed traffic use both lanes all the way up to the merge point, taking turns into the continuing lane. That, of course, gets right up in the grill of conventional wisdom that tells drivers to get over as soon as possible — and likely cursing any driver who dares proceed up to the merge point before attempting to get over.
While some states still advocate early merging, others swear by the zipper merge, which studies have shown to create fairness for everyone, reduce road-rage incidents and dramatically improve traffic flow through a bottleneck. Given the gut reaction many people have to motorists who didn't "earn" their place in line by merging early — as well as the dissent we had among our own ranks here at Cars.com — we were rather surprised at the avalanche of support zipper merging received.
About 83 percent of Cars.com reader comments endorsed the zipper merge. Our pals at Car Talk put the story on their Facebook page, where dissing zipper mergers was punishable by group ridicule on charges of being childishly petty and unscientific. So it was rather surprising when the results of Car Talk's reader poll came in. Less than 45 percent of the 4,680 respondents reported that "drivers who zipper merge are doing the smart thing to keep traffic moving," while 55 percent said "drivers who zipper merge should be tarred and feathered."
We'd like to see this thing settled right here, once and for all. So which is it, people? To zipper merge or not to zipper merge: That is the question. Take the poll below and let's see if we can't come together on how to merge.
News Editor Matt Schmitz is a veteran Chicago journalist indulging his curiosity for all things auto while helping to inform car shoppers. Email Matt