We've always assumed that those people who cut the line and wait until the last second to merge are rude, inconsiderate jerks, but now it appears that the jerks may have been us all along. NBC San Diego reports a growing number of states—including Minnesota, Missouri, Kansas, Washington, and Colorado—are asking drivers to wait until the exact point where the lanes narrow before merging. The Colorado Department of Transportation says waiting until the last possible moment to merge actually reduces delays by up to 35%, according to the Coloradoan. And the West Central Tribune reports it can reduce the length of a backup by up to 40%.
The explanation is actually fairly simple: Cars merging earlier than they absolutely must leave the remaining portion of the closing lane unused. That makes backups worse. Merging as late as possible is also safer. The Tribune notes that merging early "can lead to unexpected and dangerous lane switching, serious crashes, and road rage." But despite the evidence, drivers aren't likely to start going easy on people who skip the line to merge at the last second. Colorado has been trying to get the word out about merging later for a decade to no avail. "I don't know what it's going to take to get people on board," a Department of Transportation spokesperson tells the Coloradoan.