Today it happened…again! I was on an acceleration ramp for Interstate 80 when the car in front of me came to a full stop before merging onto the highway due to heavy traffic.  So, of course, I stopped behind her to wait my turn.  When the traffic finally let up enough for the car in front of me to begin to merge out, the impatient driver behind me drove around both our cars to enter the highway before us!  I understand – ideally – the purpose of the acceleration lane is to help us merge into traffic while accelerating to highway speed.  However, the cars on the highway have the right of way; sometimes, we need to yield to traffic by coming to a complete stop before merging onto the highway.

Improper merging is one of my 3 pet peeves when it comes to driving – tailgating and traffic not using both lanes to a merge point are the other 2.  I have to wonder if these behaviors simply reflect a lack of driving etiquette or if we are really unaware of certain driving safety rules?  I decided to do a little research to determine what – if any – are the safety rules about these pet peeves of mine…

1.  Entering Highway via acceleration ramp.  (according to the PA DMV)

    • Put on your turn signal and find an opening in the traffic.
    • Accelerate to the speed of the traffic.
    • Merge into the opening in the traffic.
    • it is illegal to pass a vehicle ahead of you in an acceleration lane.

2.  Tailgating

    • Following too closely may not give you enough time to react to a problem.
    • Use the 4 second rule
      • Watch the rear bumper of the vehicle ahead of you.
      • When the bumper passes a roadside object like a telephone pole, start counting how many seconds it takes you to reach the same spot on the road.
      • If you pass the marking or object in less than 4 seconds, you are following too closely.
      • A “Following too closely” violation comes with a cost of about $200 and 3 points on your license.

3.  Merging from 2 lanes into one lane

    • There is no specific law or rule for one proper technique, suggesting merging behavior in this case is a matter of driver etiquette.
    • An official announcement from Penn-DOT reminds “motorists approaching lane- restricted highway work zones to use all open lanes to the merge point. Please be courteous to other motorists and allow them to merge. The effectiveness of traffic flow in highway work zones is highly dependent on driver behavior. Using all lanes and allowing a consistent, courteous merge will reduce congestion and delay and help traffic move smoothly and safely through the work zone.”

Especially at this time of year, when we all tend to be rushing a little more than usual, it is important to remember driving comes with inherent risks.  We can greatly minimize those risks for ourselves and others by remembering to follow our safe driving rules and by exercising some patience and respect for our fellow drivers.