Apr 4, 2013

Be A Late Merger, But Don't Be A Dick

Apparently, road rage has increased dramatically in recent years. I don't think that's surprising news to anyone.

I think the way people get angry on the roads has changed.  I'm pretty sure that in the past people yelled and honked and gestured at each other more, but there was less getting out of the car and attacking the other driver with fists and baseball bats (which you just happen to be carrying in the boot).

These days there's less of the former but a lot more of the latter. In fact I think there's less of the former BECAUSE there's more of the latter. I myself no longer engage in angry beeps, drag races at the lights or angry headlight flashing, because it no longer seems wise to do it.

Or perhaps I'm just getting old.

Last month Fairfax ran a poll asking readers what behaviour angered them most on the roads. The top voted items were:

Late "push-in" mergers..........27% 
Drivers on the phone and not paying attention..........17%

"Failing to indicate lane changes", "cyclists flouting road rules" and "drivers travelling too slowly" all pulled just 8% each. "Travelling at the speed limit in right hand lanes" got 7% and "parking aggression" 1%.

If I had to nominate the things that rile ME the most, they'd be:
Sudden lane changes that force you to drop back
Failure to indicate
People merging badly onto freeways
Drivers running red lights

Until fairly recently, I would have nominated late merging. But I'm a late convert to late merging. In fact, I was converted by reading Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), the first chapter of which is all about how the author became a late convert to late merging.

The thing is, you're supposed to merge late. The most efficient way for all traffic to move is to use all lanes until a lane ends. If you're like I was, you would see the left lane ending up ahead, think "Better do the right thing and move over", and merge right, silently seething at those who zipped up the left and merged only at the last minute. Who do they think they are, I'd fume.

But I was wrong. It creates more inefficiency merging early, because those who do make the other lanes move slower, and the left lane goes to waste.

So now I merge later, BUT... there is still a right way to do this. I still get irked by those who try to zip past you when you are merging and sneak in ahead, or those who try to push in after a car you've just let in - it's supposed to be like a zipper, one car from each lane in turn.

I'm a big believer in doing the right thing on the roads. It's good karma: your tolerant, polite behaviour reduces stress for others and increases the total sum of goodwill on the road, and may have a butterfly effect preventing an accident somewhere down the line. Or as The Plastic Mancunian says, "pay it forward".

My anti-road-rage philosophy can be summed up as follows:

Anti Road Rage Philosophy:
1. Apologize if you make a mistake (the little wave, the little grimace, the exaggeratedly mouthed "SORRY!")
2. If someone else makes a mistake, think (a) it's just a mistake and (b) have you ever done the same thing? (because at some point you have)
3. Be a late merger, but don't be a dick 

photo by PDXdj via Flickr Creative Commons


  1. I think I'm one of the few people who doesn't feel road rage. The nanna in me says, "It doesn't really matter; we'll all arrive where we want to in the end."

    Then again I hate driving anyway...

  2. I need to teach my wife, Mrs. Cranky, your rules. She is mild mannered until she gets behind the wheel and then her Italian takes over and everyone on the road is an a-hole!

    1. She's a Mr(s) Wheeler! (remember that old Disney cartoon?)



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