Tuesday, October 3, 2023


Are you doing it wrong? Here’s how to correctly perform a zipper merge

I’ll begin with my confession: I’ve been doing it wrong. All wrong. I’ve watched other well-meaning drivers do it wrong, too. I’ve even seen professional truckers block other drivers and prevent them from doing it correctly! Pay attention, RVers! Here’s how to correctly perform a zipper merge.

Road construction

These are two words that RVers often dread. “Road construction” often means heavy traffic and slowdowns. Maneuvering an oversized RV through a road construction’s narrowed lanes with merging vehicles can be nerve-wracking. To make things easier for all drivers, a unique merging technique was developed. It’s called a zipper merge.

Why zipper?

This merging technique works like a zipper. When you see “lane closed ahead” signs, and traffic is light, you can merge when it’s safe to do so. However, if the traffic is heavy, you should stay in your current lane. Yes, stay right there until you reach the designated merging point. At the point in the highway where the lane ends, drivers should take alternating turns moving into the open lane—one vehicle after another, like the teeth on a zipper. In case you don’t believe me, watch the video below.

The problem with zippers

Actual studies have shown that when performed correctly, the zipper merge is not only the safest way to merge two lanes into one, but it’s also the best way to keep traffic moving. Huh. Who knew?

The problem with the zipper merge method is that most drivers do not like other cars zooming past them in the soon-to-be merging lane, then zipping in at the front of the line. Somehow it seems like cheating or “cutting off” the other drivers. (Can you say, “Road rage”?) This is the main feature of a zipper merge—allowing a car to merge in front of your vehicle, better known as “cutting in.”

Another problem with the zipper merge is drivers like me—those who don’t know or practice the correct zipper merging method. And then, too, there are folks who try to keep others from correctly merging like a zipper.

What to do?

As a former teacher, I know how difficult it is for some folks to take turns. In every crowd, there are always people who demand to be first or fastest. There are others who want things to be fair and will do what they can to right a wrong—even when there hasn’t been a wrong to right!

Driver education may help new drivers learn and practice this special merge. Perhaps better highway signage that demonstrates the zipper procedure would also help. But until every driver knows how and adopts the proper way to zipper merge, there will be slowdowns, road rage, and accidents. At least that’s my opinion.

Have you ever seen zipper merge signs while RVing? How do you merge in construction zones? Tell us in the comments below.


Gail Marsh
Gail Marsh
Gail Marsh is an avid RVer and occasional work camper. Retired from 30+ years in the field of education as an author and educator, she now enjoys sharing tips and tricks that make RVing easier and more enjoyable.


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Neal Davis
1 month ago

Thank you, Gail. I never knew. Guess things have changed in the 50 years since I took driver’s education. That or I only remember part (any?) of what I was taught.

Diane McGovern
1 month ago
Reply to  Neal Davis

Hi, Neal. I learned how to drive 60 years ago and driver’s ed. was not required. My dad taught me and my two sisters. He did teach us the “zipper merge,” although he didn’t have a name for it. Have a great day. 😀 –Diane at RV travel.com

Jamie Cherry
2 months ago

This is what my dad taught me as a kid and what I learned in Driver Education when I was 16 (52 years ago). Maybe I was lucky to have this taught at a young age? Thanks for sharing, hopefully the word gets passed around.

2 months ago

I always try to do the zipper merge but then get cut off by others who think I’m cheating and trying to get ahead. As a result, they end up slowing things way down.

Tony K
2 months ago

Merging together at the end works best and you have “ no road rage” as those kind of drivers never get into position to create “ road rage” . I built freeway bridges for 37 years and worked in and around countless lane closures in 37 years day & night. I’ve witnessed every kind of situation under the sun but merging at the end definitely works best.

2 months ago

Those that haven’t heard of “zipper merge” probably don’t read much. Out here in the West the term is often seen/heard but rarely applied correctly. Thanks for trying!

2 months ago

Reading these comments confirms my suspicions. People do not understand that the zipper merge keeps traffic flowing by using both lanes for as long as possible. It allows traffic to move virtually twice as fast as it would if everyone moved over right away.

Teaching this in drivers ed. will help, but there will still be all the diehards who refuse to understand.

2 months ago

Even if almost all do the zipper move there is always the one driver who will wait to the very last second and the cones are forcing them into one lane that will still try to get one more car ahead. Like the rest of us, I hate when this happens. But since I’m in my RV I just accept and enjoy my day.

2 months ago

I disagree. If you are paying attention, I think you should start to merge as soon as you see the warning signs. That way the traffic has plenty of time to adjust to the changing conditions.

Jim G.
2 months ago

In theory the zipper lane works, but in reality it does not. I have seen the traffic flow best when everyone plays nice and merges early.

Vince S
2 months ago
Reply to  Jim G.

Agreed. Odds are better you’ll get “pinched” in the faded lane than the other guy letting you and your toad in.

Nobody likes to be trapped in a single lane behind a slow RV so you might as well catch your lane when you can versus when you’re out of room.

2 months ago

We always do this BUT the problem is no one lets you in if you are oversized!
5 years on the road and all we see are people cutting us off and using the left lane (we call them leftest). This is a real problem out west where everyone speeds and has no road manners.

2 months ago

I try to get into the open lane asap, n leave a large gap between me n whoever’s in front of me. Why? I don’t want someone who’s not paying attention behind me rearend me, which will shove me into the one in front of me, n to let those people who HAVE to be FIRST by racing to the end of the closed lane, n let the semi in that others won’t. Life’s too short.

2 months ago

Seriously? You have never heard of a zipper merge?? This is how traffic is supposed to work at every lane closure. It is waaay faster for everyone and those idiots that try to block the merging lane are causing everyone to have to wait longer and should be ticketed!!

Bob P
2 months ago

All the years driving semi I never heard the term zipper merge, I have seen drivers speeding to the merge point to get 6 sec further down the road only to be shut down by a couple of truckers who taught them a lesson in road manners. Lol

2 months ago
Reply to  Bob P

And hence .. the unholy birth of “road rage” ..

2 months ago

Having considerable highway driving experience the problem here is really those who do as you say….. resulting in traffic being forced to come to a complete stop. When approaching a lane closure it is far better to merge ASAP in order to avoid the need to stop. The problem with this early merging is those who seek to get one or two vehicles ahead of you by passing on the right are the cause of traffics being forced to come to a complete stop.

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