Why merge traffic toward the center line and not the shoulder?

The in basket: Linda Bruns of Belfair, a frequent traveler on Highway 3 between there and Gorst, read the recent Road Warrior column about left turns off the highway into Airport Auto Wrecking near Sunnyslope Road and called me up with a suggestion,

Why not have the merge of the two uphill southbound lanes of Highway 3 into the single lane be to the outside lane rather than the inside lane, she asked. That way the cars would be moving toward the ditch rather than oncoming traffic during the merge, which struck her as a lot safer if something goes wrong. It might even make those left turns into the wrecking yard safer, she said.

The out basket: I told Linda her suggestion made a lot of sense and I’d ask the state  why the merge is the way it is. What Linda and I hadn’t considered is a countervailing hazard of doing it the other way – the blind spot all drivers have at the rear right of their vehicle.

Steve Bennett, operations engineer for the state highways in this region, told me, “Merging traffic from right to left has become the national

standard for lane reductions.  The reason it is done that way is because of better driver visibility.

“When a driver moves to his left, it is

fairly easy to determine if the lane is clear as there is no blind spot. It is somewhat more difficult to make that same determination when

moving to the right. Often, when moving to the right there can be a

small area to the right rear of the vehicle that is more difficult to

see.  For this reason, at most lane reductions, we move drivers from

right to left.”

4 thoughts on “Why merge traffic toward the center line and not the shoulder?

  1. Nor does it apply to Mile Hill Drive going up Mile Hill past Jackson Ave. Just shows that the DOT isn’t consistent with their justification for their actions.

  2. I recently returned from spending 3 weeks in Scotland. It was my first trip to Europe, and the driving style was a major surprise to me. They tailgate and weave back and forth from lane to lane like dancers on skates. I had to force myself to look out the side window to keep myself calm. During that whole time I think the only time I only heard a horn honk was when a truck started to change lanes and didn’t see the vehicle next to it.

    Perhaps we should look to accident statistics to see if horn-honking areas have fewer accidents!

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