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Sharing the Road

Sharing the Road

7th Special Forces Group
Eglin Air Force Base, Florida

A few years ago, my family and I drove from North Carolina to Florida to visit my in-laws for the Christmas holidays. As we made the roughly 600-mile, 10-hour trip, I was reminded how important it is that people share the road courteously and responsibly. One place where that is particularly important is when merging with highway traffic. Even though we do it every day, merging into traffic is a feat even seasoned drivers sometimes have a hard time accomplishing safely.


One of the definitions for “yield” in Webster’s Dictionary is “to give or render as fitting, rightfully owed, or required.” We Americans, however, can be greedy when it comes to yielding on the road. Yet, despite that, yielding is important to the safety of drivers already on the road and those trying to merge.

Merging drivers are responsible to yield to highway traffic and to signal their intentions early enough for other drivers to properly plan and react. But it’s not just merging drivers who need to yield. Although drivers on the road have the right-of-way, they should be willing to yield, as needed, to allow space for merging drivers to safely enter the flow of traffic. Matching speeds, as described below, can help make that process easier, safer and less aggravating for both drivers.

Matching speeds

Matching speeds is important to reduce the difference in speed between drivers on the road and those attempting to merge. To do that, merging drivers need to use the onramp and, if available, merging lane to accelerate to just below the traffic speed. Highway drivers should slow down slightly to provide merging drivers room to enter the road and reach highway speed.

Another option for drivers on the road is, when possible, to signal and change lanes to their left. This frees the right-hand lane for merging traffic to enter safely. It is important to know your state’s rules about driving in the left lane so you don’t camp there if it is not legal. You should reenter the right lane when it is safe to do so.

One-to-one merging

Another option is one-to-one merging, which alternates a vehicle on the road with a merging vehicle. Drivers on the road and merging drivers effectively alternate taking their turn in the right lane, allowing them to share the road in a predictable, equitable fashion. To make this work safely, drivers on the road should keep, at a minimum, a two-second following interval behind the vehicle ahead. This leaves room for merging drivers to enter the roadway and helps prevent tailgating — a dangerous situation that can lead to road rage.

All the rage

Speaking of anger on the road, there’s a reason many police officers park near merging lanes and watch the traffic; such places are common locations for road rage. A vehicle gets cut off or someone speeds up, blocking a driver from merging and forcing them to stop in the merging lane, and the blood starts boiling. Such incidents can lead to road rage as drivers seek to get even with those who have offended them. Because of increased traffic congestion and driver distraction as motorists try to move to the proper lane, it’s especially important to yield without letting tempers flare. Acting out road rage is against the law and can land a driver in jail, in addition to paying stiff fines and penalties.

Don’t pick a fight

If you’re on the highway and approaching an onramp ahead, keep in mind the advice about matching speeds. Slow down and leave room for the merging vehicle to enter the road ahead of you. Also remember to use the two-second following rule on the road to leave a safe interval. Understand it’s not worth your life or someone else’s to save those two seconds. Speeding up to block someone from merging can earn you a ticket for tailgating or aggressive driving. Check your ego; you’ll get over being ticked a lot faster than you’ll get over being ticketed.

Chilling out

Merging on roads covered with snow or ice requires extra care if you want to avoid a collision or winding up in a ditch. If you’re on the highway, it’s best to signal and move to the lane on your left. This allows merging drivers the extra room they need to slowly accelerate on the onramp, get onto the highway and gradually speed up to match the traffic flow. The last thing you want yourself or anyone else to have to do is suddenly brake on a slick road.

The squeeze play

Not all merging situations involve traffic entering a highway. Sometimes, road construction or accidents force drivers to merge into a single lane. Planned lane closures, such as for road construction, are normally well marked in advance, alerting drivers to what lies ahead. Temporary lane closures, such as those caused by accidents, require drivers to be alert to the road situation ahead. In both cases, there will be some drivers who will stay in the lane being closed until the last second and then attempt to merge. While this cutting in line often angers other drivers, trying to block them could lead to serious consequences such as driver confrontations or multiple-car crashes.

Bottom line

While it’s easy to feel we own the stretch of road we are on, it’s a lot wiser to be willing to share it with others. After all, which would you rather be behind on the road — a merging driver or a tow truck?

  • 1 January 2022
  • Author: USACRC Editor
  • Number of views: 345
  • Comments: 0
Categories: Off-DutyPMV-4