January 11, 2017 2:50 pm
Updated: January 11, 2017 10:57 pm

‘It’s OK to cheat’ when merging into traffic, AMA says

WATCH ABOVE: Gord Gillies begrudgingly accepts that merge ‘cheaters’, have a role to play in easing traffic jams!


Much like the toilet roll over-or-under debate, how to correctly merge when you’re losing a lane of traffic continues to divide people.

When a sign warns of a lane closure ahead, some motorists immediately merge into the bottleneck, while others zip to the front and merge at the last minute.

While those drivers are often considered “cheaters,” the Alberta Motor Association says they’ve got the right approach.

“Merging methods are highly debated among Alberta motorists,” AMA’s Jeff Kasbrick said. “But if you ask transportation specialists, they’ll tell you the best approach is the one that benefits everyone: a zipper merge.”

What is a zipper merge?

  • When motorists use both lanes of traffic until the defined merge area
  • Then alternate in zipper fashion into the open lane
  • Studies show this method can decrease traffic congestion by as much as 40 per cent, reduce the speed differential between lanes and foster a sense of fairness that all lanes are moving at the same rate.

“When traffic isn’t backed up and an early merge makes sense, drivers should do so,” Kasbrick said. “But in times of heavy congestion, using both lanes – followed by an orderly zipper merge – improves safety and efficiency.”

In fact, a Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) study released Wednesday found bottlenecks – created by those who merge immediately – are the single biggest contributor to road delays. That means bottlenecks cause more delays than collisions, weather and construction. The CAA found bottlenecks can increase commute times by as much as 50 per cent.

Watch below: Many people get upset with drivers who use a particular merging tactic in certain situations. But the Alberta Motor Association says they are doing the right thing and keeping traffic moving. Fletcher Kent explains.

WATCH: A study conducted by the Canadian Automobile Association shows that the Zipper Merge is reducing traffic congestion up to 40 percent.

READ MORE: Miserable at work? Your commute might be the culprit 

Worst traffic congestion in Edmonton:

The study found Edmonton drivers spend an average of nearly 14 minutes stuck in traffic every day.

The worst bottleneck is on Gateway Boulevard between Whitemud Drive and 34 Avenue. The study says that spot alone causes an additional:

  • 966,000 kilograms of CO2 emissions
  • 92,000 hours of driver delays
  • $2.65 million in lost time each year

READ MORE: Calgary traffic congestion worse than Edmonton, better than Vancouver 

Worst traffic congestion in Calgary:

The study found Calgary drivers spend an average of 18 extra minutes stuck in traffic every day.

The worst congestion happens at two Crowchild Trail bottlenecks:

  • Crowchild Trail and 24 Avenue
  • Crowchild Trail and between University Drive NW and Memorial Drive NW

According to the CAA, the backups at those two spots alone cause an additional:

  • 1.42 million kilograms of CO2 emissions annually
  • 150,000 hours of driver delays
  • $4.34 million in lost time each year

“Although Alberta’s bottlenecks didn’t land among the worst 20 nationwide, Alberta commuters clearly know the pain of being stuck in traffic,” Kasbrick said.

READ MORE: Stop complaining, Canada: Your traffic is bad, but far from worst 

Tips on how to keep traffic flowing:

  1. Be patient. Everyone is trying to get to their destination safely
  2. Obey the official and unspoken rules of the road (use signals properly, avoid distractions, thank drivers for letting you in)
  3. Drive at an appropriate speed for conditions – traffic and environmental – and obey posted speed limits
  4. Be courteous, responsible and co-operative

  5. Story continues below

READ MORE: Average Toronto commuter loses 84 hours a year in traffic: study 

By the numbers:

1.8 million – Number of Albertans who commute to work

83 – Percentage of Edmontonians who commute by car, truck or van

77 – Percentage of Calgarians who commute by car, truck or van

25.1 – Average commute time in minutes, each way, in Alberta

25.6 – Average commute time in minutes, each way, in Edmonton

27 – Average commute time in minutes, each way, in Calgary

32.8 – Average commute time in minutes, each way, in Toronto (the longest in Canada)

53 – Percentage of Albertans who commute between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m.

29 – Percentage of Albertans who commute between 5 a.m. and 6:59 a.m.

Source: Statistics Canada’s National Household Survey

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc

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