Cardinal Sins Of Merging Traffic

The Australian road rules state that when a lane ends and the traffic must merge, that the traffic in the continuing lane must yield for the merging traffic.

Despite the road rule being quite clear, it amazes me how often you see people in the continuing lane not giving way to the merging traffic. This relatively small disregard for the road rules typically results in the merging traffic slowing down dramatically or coming to a complete stop. Once that happens, it then takes even more effort for the merging traffic to actually merge as they then have to accelerate – which depending on the speed of the continuing traffic can be quite difficult.

What frustrates me even more though, is when drivers know that they are required to merge and choose to leave it to the last minute. Their impatience makes the situation worst, as you’re now in a position where you have people needing to merge and people not yielding.

If drivers know that they are required to merge, the traffic would flow far more smoothly if they merged early – before the traffic compresses. As soon as the traffic compresses, it then becomes harder to merge as their typically isn’t enough space often enough between all of the vehicles. When the continuing lane must slow down for the merging traffic, it exasperates the problem and you’re witnessing the beginnings of painful drive to work.

Moto of the story, when driving – if you’re required to merge; merge as early as you can. If you have merging traffic around you – allow them space to merge comfortably so they don’t need to slow down. The world, or at the very least commuting, will be a happier experience for your consideration on the matter.

6 thoughts on “Cardinal Sins Of Merging Traffic

  1. While I feel your frustration, humans on the whole are selfish creatures which is why merging never ever works.

    We had this same discussion at work the other day, except we were talking about freeway merges where there is no continuing and merging traffic — everybody is equal. Under those conditions I believer you’re supposed to zipper merge, but nobody ever does; it’s basically a race to see who can push in furthest to try and get one car length in front. Of course, that makes it slower for everyone, but that’s human nature.

  2. My rule for merging when I am in the continuing traffic is 1 car per gap & I always try to allow room for someone to merge. However, if you’re an arrogant wanker that I’ve just seen speed past others trying to merge so that you can get up to the compressed section before merging – you can go to hell!

  3. Maybe you should all go and check the road users hand book again. Al you have been miss informed with the ruling you have at the top.

    In the ‘Road Users Hand Book’ (page 121) for NSW it states that when merging lanes the traffic in the lane ending quote ‘ you must give way to vehiclas in the lane you are moving into’ unquote. It then goes on to state the two rulings;

    1. Sometimes the lane line ends before the lane merge, the trailing vehicle gives way to the vehicle ahead. Use caution when merging.
    2. Where the lane you are driving in ends and you have to cross lane lines (I.E. lane dividers painted on the road and the cat eye reflecters on the road including the short dotted ‘Give Way’ line at the end) to merge with the traffic in another lane, give way to the traffic in the other lane.

    It also has diagrams to explain this.

    All can be found on your local RTA web site.

  4. Jeff,

    I’ve just gone to check the Queensland Road Rules and they match what you’ve described for New South Wales as well. From memory when I wrote this back in 2007, I actually checked the Queensland Main Roads website for their definition, however I could be mistaken. Which ever is the case, I’m now a little wiser for having read your comment and checking it for myself.

    I suppose my point at the time wasn’t really to do with what the road rules specifically state but to do with road courtesy, which seems to be reducing in a lot of different circumstances. If everyone on the road had a little common sense to merge as early as possible, move into whatever space was available and not push in ahead of their normal road position – everyone would be better off.


  5. Al,
    I agree with you on this as on the day that I wrote my comment on your web site, I too was told that I was in the wrong when another driver came up beside me in a lane that was ending and tried to merge into my lane. The driver followed me to work and then had words. He then went on and produced your comments from this web site stating it was the law for merging lanes. However the driver was not past me when he tried to merge, but, along side me and was not leading my car. There was however a gap of about four car lengths between me and the car in front and the other driver did have plenty of time to pass me and then merge. If he had in fact been in front of me I would have let him in. This is a problem on our roads, no matter what state we come from and will remain so until we can improve on driver training.
    I too went to the local RTA to question them and found out that the question on merging traffic does not come up very much in the driver test.
    As a member of an emergency service I have attended far to many MVAs where people have tried to merge with out looking, tring to get ahead of the line or have been forced to stop suddenly due to other people not driving safely on our roads. Maybe our elected govenment should spend more on things like driver training to reduce the carnage on the roads as this will in turn reduce the work load at our hospitals and for emergency services.

    Safe motering.

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