Why Jerk Drivers Who Merge at the Last Minute Are Actually More Efficient

iStock
iStock

Merging on the highway can be a fraught task. Most people do it the polite way: merging over into the lane as soon as possible, forming a polite line of people waiting to get off the highway or move out of a closed lane. But there’s always that one jerk who speeds ahead of the line of slowed traffic, merging into the lane at the last second possible and cutting ahead of the entire line of cautious drivers who merged a mile back. While we may resent those drivers, according to HowStuffWorks, this aggressive style of merging is actually the most efficient way to keep traffic moving.

The last-minute system, dubbed the “zipper merge,” suggests that all drivers wait until they’re almost at the fork in the road or start of the closed lane to merge over. Instead of creating a long line of cars at a standstill in the right lane, waiting until the last second maximizes road capacity, since cars are moving in both lanes. It also makes the road safer. Don’t believe it? Watch the principle at work in the animation below.

Traffic studies prove that the zipper merge is the most efficient way to keep a road moving. Instead of one lane of traffic whizzing by while the other lane slows down considerably, both lanes slow down slightly, and overall, the slowdown is more equitable across both lanes. According to the Minnesota Department of Transportation, it can reduce the length of backed up traffic by up to 40 percent.

But that assumes that every driver adopts the zipper merge. Unfortunately, it’s very hard to convince a whole society of drivers to suddenly change their behavior. Even if zipper mergers are technically correct, when the whole rest of the highway is operating under the belief that merging as soon as possible is the correct and polite way to go about dealing with a lane closure, that one guy merging at the last moment just looks like a jerk. The system only works if everyone plays by the same rules.

Some transportation departments have tried to encourage drivers to adopt the practice, putting up signs near road closures that ask people to “merge here,” nudging them to wait just a little longer before they get over.

Merging late may go against our very nature, however. Many people tend to “pre-crastinate,” according to one 2014 psychological study, trying to get a task out of the way as soon as possible even when doing so goes against our best interests. Penn State researchers found that when asked to complete the basic task of carrying buckets from one end of an alley to the other, people were willing to do more work rather than delay completing a basic task until the last second. Many participants opted to pick up a bucket closer to them, even when it meant they would have to carry the bucket farther, rather than waiting to pick up a bucket closer to their end goal.

So, it may be no surprise that the zipper merge hasn’t caught on, at least in the U.S. But at least now you can feel justified being that one last-minute merger.

[h/t HowStuffWorks]

Florida to Open Its First-Ever Snow Park

Zuberka/iStock via Getty Images
Zuberka/iStock via Getty Images

Millions of tourists flock to Florida each year to ride roller coasters, meet their favorite cartoon characters, and lounge on the beach. The state isn't famous for its winter activities, but that could soon change. As WESH 2 reports, Florida's first-ever snow park is coming to Dade City in 2020.

At Snowcat Ridge, guests will be able to take part in the same snowy fun that's up North. The main attraction of the park will be a 60-foot-tall, 400-foot-long slope packed with snow. A lift will transport visitors to the top of the hill, and from there, they'll use inner tubes to slide back down to ground level. Single, double, and six-person family tubes will be provided to riders.

Guests can also check out the 10,000-square-foot play dome, where they'll use real snow to build snow castles and snow men. The area will even feature a small hill for young visitors who aren't ready for more serious snow-tubing. And because the best part of playing in the snow all day is warming up afterwards, Snowcat Ridge will be home to an Alpine Village, where guests can nibble on snacks and sip cocoa in front of a bonfire.

Dade City is located in Central Florida, an area that hasn't seen snow in nearly 43 years. The arrival of the new park will mark the first time many locals can get a full winter experience close to home.

Snowcat Ridge is expected to open in November 2020.

[h/t WESH 2]

The New York Times's Latest Book on Travel Will Help You Plan the Perfect Weekend Getaway

TASCHEN
TASCHEN

Getting a full sense of a new city while traveling can be tough—especially if you only have a weekend to explore it. But since 2002, The New York Times’s "36 Hours" column has been breaking down destinations all over the world into bite-size pieces, allowing travelers to see the big attractions while still experiencing the city like a local. Now, you can get the best of the column's North American destinations with the fully updated and revised edition of 36 Hours: USA & Canada for $40 at TASCHEN or on Amazon.

Even if you have the original, it’s worth purchasing this updated copy, as this version features 33 new itineraries from Anchorage, Alaska; the Berkshires in Massachusetts; Boulder, Colorado; Miami; Oakland, California; Chattanooga, Tennessee; and many more.

36 Hours: USA & Canda from the New York Times
TASCHEN

The 752-page book also offers more than 5400 hours of travel itineraries, 600 restaurants to dine at, and 450 hotel options. Each city featured includes a brief history, a list of popular destinations, and tips on how to experience it all like a local. For example, the New Orleans guide encourages travelers to start at the French 75 Bar for happy hour and order a Sazerac, a cocktail close to an Old-Fashioned that's a local favorite. Whereas the Miami guide takes you to the Buena Vista Deli, a bistro known for its take on classic French dishes. The travel book also features detailed city maps that pinpoint all the stops, and it's accompanied by nearly 1000 photographs.

Once you've picked your destination, check out some tips on how to craft the perfect itinerary.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we choose all products independently and only get commission on items you buy and don't return, so we're only happy if you're happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER