Aggressive driver at freeway merge

The in basket: Bill White writes that “when merging onto Highway 3 off Austin Drive, the car far behind me in the right-hand lane suddenly sped up and cut me off in the merge lane bottleneck as I was getting onto the highway, almost hitting
me. I could not yield, and he would not yield either. When merging onto the highway and nobody is letting you on, who has the legal right-of-way in a merge lane
bottleneck?


The in basket: Bill White writes that “when merging onto Highway 3 off Austin Drive, the car far behind me in the right-hand lane suddenly sped up and cut me off in the merge lane bottleneck as I was getting onto the highway, almost hitting
me. I could not yield, and he would not yield either. I could not slow
down because there was an accelerating line of cars behind me also
merging onto Highway 3, so I had no choice really but to take my chances
with this guy who would not get over into the left-hand lane. The guy
then started a lengthy ‘road rage’ incident because, as he yelled
repeatedly, he had the right-of-way.”
My questions are: 1. When merging onto the highway and nobody is
letting you on, who has the legal right-of-way in a merge lane
bottleneck?
2. When in a potentially volatile road rage situation (one that you
can’t get out of) what can you do, especially if the guy is just cursing
at you, driving aggressively and flipping you off? The cops are no help
because they have to actually witness the said event, and they never
seem to be around when you need them. Sure, I could try to defend
myself, but my luck would be the guy would be armed, or I would be the
one arrested for assault and battery. It seems like a Catch-22.”
The out basket: While it sounds like the other guy was looking to pick a fight if he intentionally sped up to keep Bill from merging easily, he was right, he had the right of way. Cars in the lane that is ending must yield, and the on-ramp was ending.
While stopping on an on-ramp is a bad idea, it seems slowing down to let the aggressive jerk go by would have been the best option.
I haven’t experienced the merging problems others describe at the troublesome Austin Drive northbound on-ramp, but if I ever found myself in the bind Bill describes, I think I’d escape onto the shoulder and wait for a break in traffic to merge in.
Brian George, the state trooper who advises me on such things, encourages drivers who encounter an abusive driver to phone in a complaint. While odds are not good that an officer will be close enough to provide any immediate help, they can be looking for the guy in the future. Your complaint also might fit a pattern of behavior officers can take into consideration if they stop the person for some offense later. And if you are about to come to blows on the roadside, they’ll make it a priority.

6 thoughts on “Aggressive driver at freeway merge

  1. I’ve found drivers courteous and generous at letting traffic merge into ‘their’ lane… and the few rude or aggressive drivers can carry on..they are accidents waiting to happen … they have let a tough day take over their driving and safety sense.
    Sharon O’Hara

  2. You seem to have avoided answering the question. I thought whoever is already in the highway lane has the right of way and drivers on the merging lane needs to adjust their speed to merge into traffic. That means either speeding up or slowing down to merge.
    If I am on the highway and I see a potential merge conflict, I always move to the left lane, if possible. A lot of people around here seem to hog lanes.

  3. If I may add… I do nothing to escalate a possible ‘road rage’ … it seems unreasonable to test a stranger on the highway over the matter of who has the right of way.

    When I merge into traffic, I am going at speed to match the highway speed….sometimes a little more if that is what it takes to get in and ahead of, or behind the rouge car driver who won’t move over..
    In the areas I’ve had to merge into traffic, there have been signs saying something like merging traffic, indicating the mainstream road has the ROW.

    The driver of the car you mention may have been talking to his golf buddy on his cell phone and been distracted.
    Sharon O’Hara

  4. My understanding of Washington State traffic laws is that no driver has the “right of way.” Instead, the laws speak of which driver has the obligation to yield the right of way. It’s an attitude of obligation rather than of rights.

    I move out of the far right lane when I see a car on the ramp, (if there is room to do so.) Otherwise, I leave a three-second gap in front of me and then attempt to maintain a constant speed. When entering a freeway, I attempt to bring my speed up to the speed of the cars already in the right hand lane, while looking for a space. If folks are tailgating, I slow down to get behind them, rather than trying to squeeze in.

    (All of the above is on days when I’m a perfect driver, mind you.)

  5. I’d like to address the issue of merges. I drive a large semi-truck which, when loaded, weighs anywhere from 80,000 to 105,000 pounds. I travel in the right lane of the freeway and, thus, am subject to the whims of “merging” drivers who seem to think I should move over to the left lane to accommodate them as they run out of on-ramp.
    Most times these drivers have not bothered to check their mirror or over their shoulder. They seem to assume that I should be able to move quickly and easily out of the way. Ha! I am eight to 10 times larger and heavier and slower to stop and accelerate. I sometimes wonder which part of my rig they intend to merge with, while I know that they are feeling as though I’m trying to run them off the road.
    People coming from Poulsbo to southbound Highway 3 are particularly self-absorbed.
    On another note, I am very glad that Kitsap citizens are finally, at long last, beginning to catch on to the logical way to handle the merge south/eastbound at the treatment plant (in Bremerton). Both lanes should be full all the way down to the pinch point, and then, just as we did in kindergarten, we take turns forming a single line. It happens on the other side of the Sound all the time…it’s called the zipper effect and it works beautifully.
    Thanks for letting me vent!

  6. The question never was answered on who has the right of way on a merge, how come? I have read in the DMV book that the merger has the right of way. On coming traffic SHOULD mover over to center lane or slow down to let merger in.
    (Editor: This is not correct. Oncoming traffic should move over when it’s safe, as a matter of courtesy, but is not required to do so. The merger must yield. The column said the vehicle in the lane that is ending must yield, that the on-ramp is ending, so the the merger must yield.

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