We've all been there — sitting patiently in traffic when a car flies by on the right, passing dozens of other vehicles, and cuts in at the last second.
"What an a**hole," you think.
Turns out you — yes, YOU, mannerly citizen — are likely the a-hole who's at fault for the terrible traffic — not the opportunistic "cheater" you just cussed out.
A new report from the Alberta Motor Association (AMA) says people who race up the merge lane and cut in quickly are the better drivers. What's more, they actually help move traffic along faster than "courteous" drivers who make an effort to merge early.
The zipper merge, as it's known, is most effective when drivers make the most of all available lanes as long as they're open, including those contentious situations where upcoming construction has closed the road ahead.
"If we maximize that full use of two lanes until the point of merge, and then we're courteous as drivers to allow alternating vehicles through, that can really help reduce some of that congestion," AMA spokesman Jeff Kasbrick told CBC News.
(Watch a delightful video from the Minnesota Department of Transportation instructing proper zipper merge etiquette:
In 2015, The Huffington Post Canada asked Alberta motorists about the most annoying habits in their fellow drivers. Interestingly, some complained about drivers who "rush all the way up to the end of the lane to try and get the furthest position, and then either cut into traffic or cause a jam up in the merge."
Well, the AMA says that kind of driving can reduce congestion by as much as 40 per cent — but everyone has to follow the zipper merge, and make room for those taking advantage of the closing lane.
The Alberta Motor Association encourages people to use the zipper merge, especially when traffic is heavy. (Graphic: AMA)
However, there are exceptions to the merge-at-the-last-minute method.
“When traffic isn’t backed up and an early merge makes sense, drivers should do so,” Kasbrick told 1130 News. “But in times of heavy congestion, using both lanes — followed by an orderly zipper merge — improves safety and efficiency.”
This week, the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) released a study that found the single biggest contributor to delays on Canadian roads is the bottleneck traffic that forms when a road narrows. In fact, that is more of a factor than weather, collisions and construction.
The CAA estimated the country's worst bottlenecks result in 11.5 million hours worth of delays, and drain about 22 million litres of fuel per year.