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Attorney Rodney Townsend

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Does the ‘Zipper Merge’ reduce road rage (and car accidents)?

On Behalf of | Nov 5, 2021 | Uncategorized |

Road congestion is a problem throughout Texas and can present unexpected dangers to drivers and passengers. While many auto accidents happen because of driver error with distracted driving, driving under the influence, recklessness and negligence coming to the forefront, driver behavior is also an issue. Specifically, that refers to road rage. If a person is irrationally angry when on the road, they are prone to making missteps or becoming violent. Legislators, law enforcement, researchers and engineers are constantly seeking solutions. While there is hope some newly implemented tactics will yield positive results, this remains a problem and those who have been injured because of it must understand their rights.

‘Zipper Merge’ is being tested in Texas

Drivers on Interstate 35 will find a new merging method in construction zones during traffic backups. Technically, it is referred to as Dynamic Lane Merge (DLM). Other states have implemented it and it is called “Zipper Merge.” Simply put, when a lane is closed because of construction and there is a building traffic jam, drivers will automatically try to get into the clear lane. This worsens the congestion. With Zipper Merge, a sign informs drivers to stay in their lane until they come to the merge point. Drivers will then take turns entering the clear lane.

If this succeeds, the sign will then be deactivated and drivers can again merge into the other lane as they did before Zipper Merge. According to experts, this can shorten the line, enhance safety and – perhaps most importantly – reduce road rage. Road rage was in fact the catalyst for researchers at Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) to create this idea. More than two decades ago, TTI studied road rage and found that merging was one of its primary sparks. Five years later, it tested Zipper Merge. In its initial testing phase, it was found to have a positive impact. As with any new endeavor, it is likely going to take time for drivers to become accustomed to it. Since the logistics of road work varies, not every construction area will use Zipper Merge. Efficiency and safety are the objectives.

Reducing road rage

It is impossible to definitively determine whether Zipper Merge will reduce the incidence and aftermath of road rage. Still, knowing the roots of road rage may provide a window into whether it can have a positive effect. If a driver is feeling angry or frustrated for any reason, it can be expressed by road behaviors like yelling, gesturing, threatening and even committing dangerous acts with the vehicle itself as a precursor to outright violence. Stagnant or stopped traffic can lead to it, but there are many ways for it to happen. If a person is angry, there is a propensity to drive aggressively. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that two-thirds of fatal collisions are due in part to drivers who are behaving aggressively behind the wheel. Of course, reducing traffic congestion as Zipper Merge is trying to do could lower the number of drivers who experience road rage. Given the visceral roots of road rage and how people behave differently than they normally do, it is unlikely to disappear even if it does improve with this road strategy.

Road rage could be important in a personal injury case

After motor vehicle accidents in which people are injured or lose their lives, there are a litany of problems that inevitably arise. These are personal, financial and emotional. Hospitalizations, medical treatment, rehabilitation, property damage, lost time at work, problems contributing to a family and more can arise. The cause is integral when deciding on how to proceed. If the accident was because of road rage, it could be a crucial aspect of a claim. Even though Zipper Merge seems to be a well-founded strategy and drivers are constantly reminded that they should avoid reacting with rage when they are on the road, it is still going to happen. For guidance with how to move forward in these circumstances, it is wise to seek professional advice immediately.