Wednesday, August 10, 2022

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RV Safety Tip: Merging into traffic… the right way

It happened again. We’d just finished breakfast at a rest stop along the Interstate and were ready to get back on the road. We were not alone. Several other RVs headed out ahead of us. Work trucks and semis joined our lineup. We all approached the highway on-ramp, each vehicle eager to get back on the road. Morning traffic was light and moving steadily on the Interstate. That’s when it happened. The lead RV stopped. It came to a dead standstill. At the end of the on-ramp. One RVer, following the lead RV too closely had to veer onto the shoulder to avoid causing a rear-end accident. The rest of us applied brakes and shook our heads. It was another case of incorrectly merging.

Having grown up in rural Iowa, miles and miles away from the closest Interstate, my Driver’s Education only made passing mention of how to properly merge into moving highway traffic. I never got to practice my merging skills until I was in college. Our morning near-accident left me wondering if maybe other folks could also use an update on how to merge safely.

Drive defensively

Never assume what another driver is going to do. This is especially true when merging into or out of traffic, proceeding through intersections, or turning to the left or right. Always remember that driving or towing an RV means that it may take longer to bring your rig to a complete stop. The length of your RV will affect your ability to safely swerve to avoid problems, too. Above all, try to keep a cool head and relax. Arriving alive beats “making good time” or “getting there first.”

Merging safely

Here are the steps for safely merging into the flow of traffic, as presented by the auto insurance company State Farm.

  • Adjust your speed to match the flow of traffic before entering the roadway.
  • Yield to drivers on the freeway, but avoid stopping unless absolutely necessary.
  • Find a three- to four-second gap in traffic to merge. And be looking for the vehicle you want to be behind.
  • Check for cars around your vehicle before entering a lane. And remember to check your blind spot. Your mirrors will only reflect where they are aimed. So be sure to actually turn your head to see if the way is clear.
  • Use your turn signals early, a recommended 100 to 300 feet before merging or changing lanes.
  • Wait for the solid line to end before merging. A solid line indicates that lane changes are prohibited.
  • Cross one lane of traffic at a time.

Know the laws

If you travel with your RV from state to state, be sure you are familiar with each state’s highway laws. Knowing and following the rules of the road will keep you and your travel buddies safe, potentially avoid costly accidents, and reduce the chances of injury or even death to other drivers who share the road with you.

##RVDT1807

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Sue
5 months ago

Around age 55, I took a Driver’s Ed refresher course. It was terrible. Among the things missing was any mention about RV driving, which several people in the room were about to head off to do. What a missed opportunity!

(Also terrible was the mention of self driving cars and that we new elders, with our failing reaction times and diminished peripheral vision, would have trouble “avoiding” self driving cars. No understanding we seniors will HIRE those self driving cars, once safely engineered, to get around DESPITE our failing reaction times and diminished peripheral vision!)

ln em
5 months ago

another caveat:
when you’ve selected an apparent gap between vehicles, if the one to get behind is a boxy truck or another rv, watch to make extra sure that it isn’t towing a low or skinny boat trailer

ln em
5 months ago

the advice list missed the no. 1 first rule:
1. if there is another vehicle (or two) ahead of you going to merge, WAIT to see him actually complete a safe merge BEFORE yoy start accelerating.

Joe
5 months ago

Once had a lady come to a full stop on a very busy 65 MPH 2 lane interstate to let me out while driving my pickup to work one morning. I sat there with by eyes open to dinner plate size as I watched in my side view mirror a tractor trailer behind her run her over and about a dozen other vehicle’s smashed into each other and the trailer. She and several other people got a free helicopter and ambulance rides that morning, not sure if she lived. I stayed around to do what I could which was not much and to let the State Police know what happened. It was not a pretty site and had me shaking all day!

Sue
5 months ago
Reply to  Joe

That’s so sad and scary! I know that tendency to “help” when I’m on the interstate by slowing down. Slowing down a bit is quite reasonable – but at some point, speeding up and getting out of the way is the right answer. I would shake all day from witnessing that horrid crash. Thank you for staying behind to help.

Joe
5 months ago

And then you have the idiot driver behind you while merging and decides to go around you and blocks your merging spot. My air horns help get rid of my frustration

John
5 months ago

You think you have problems, come to Arizona where the DOT has discovered “Round abouts”. To make matters even worse, they don’t understand how much space the Round About should provide. Too small turn circles and idiot drivers make for a very exciting day.

DW/ND
5 months ago

It appears to me this is an excellent “rant” on a subject that is of great importance to anyone driving a limited acceleration and a more limited braking capacity vehicle. It also appears to have done what it was probably designed to do – starting a dissertation below by many Rvers’ who understand the problems and especially the newbies coming on board!

Thanks Gail for an informative and timely safety article. If you drive thru ND you’ll soon realize how important it is! (Be prepared to stop on the on-ramp because someone will!!!).

Stephen Snure
5 months ago

When traveling on busy multi-lane highways in or near cities with many exits/entrances I take a queue from truckers and stay out of the far-right lane. I also try to keep up with traffic while leaving a safe (4+ second) distance from the vehicle ahead. This allows more merging space for traffic entering the highway than if they have to navigate around our 65′ of coach and tow vehicle. It is also much less stressful for me since on-ramp traffic isn’t (shouldn’t!) merging into my lane.

Also, when traveling through cities where lanes are added to the right I stay in the lane I was in rather than moving into the additional lane(s) since it’s likely those lanes will be removed when leaving the city. That said, I’m mindful of traffic behind me and move to the right if I’m holding up the lane.

Sue
5 months ago
Reply to  Stephen Snure

Excellent advice!

Bob M
5 months ago

Most people don’t know the law about merging. A yield sign red and white with red letters. Calls on the driver to do the following: Slow down, defer to oncoming or intersecting traffic, stop when necessary, proceed when safe, and remain aware of oncoming vehicles. When driving down the interstate most drivers merging on won’t slow down and yield to traffic. If you are able to move over the driver that merged on won’t let you back in the lane. Some that you may have slowed down to let on. Now go slower than the speed limit so you end up passing them. When merging onto the interstate don’t rely on your mirrors that light up a spot to tell you it’s clear. Since you may be at an angle the sensor isn’t seeing the vehicle on the interstate. Look and see if anything is there.

Roger Marble
5 months ago
Reply to  Bob M

To quote Shakespeare “The Law is an {bleeped}”. If you are entering an interstate where traffic is moving at the speed limit, why would someone suggest you should slow down when you are trying to merge with faster traffic? You need to be at the speed of the traffic on the highway when you are at the end of the ramp. This means you need to accelerate and with an RV or trailer, this means some hard acceleration. But you are correct that too few drivers know how to do much other than slow down because the “Speed Nazies” only know the mantra “Speed Kills” except when someone tries to enter a freeway while driving 20 mph slower than the traffic that is on the highway.

Wayne C
5 months ago
Reply to  Bob M

I’m not sure “most people don’t know the law about merging” although I wouldn’t argue the matter. From what I’ve noticed it only takes one car slowing down to start a big mess as illustrated in the article. Then there are the on ramp signals that make everybody stop.

Farmermark49
5 months ago

When I am towing, I do not exceed 60 mph. Even on a freeway posted at 70 mph people can’t accelerate to 60 to merge. Another problem I see in my State (even when the State puts out signs) is not using all lanes to the merge point as you approach a area of construction. You’ve got to love people who block the closed lane(s) well before the merge point thinking they are helping traffic through the area more quickly. Studies show this is not the case: therefore our State has emphasized this with large signs at some construction sites. Still many pay no attention.

TIM MCRAE
5 months ago
Reply to  Farmermark49

👍👍☝️👍drivers who brake excessively / frequently in merge zones or heavy traffic, or don’t understand Zipper merge need impeding traffic tickets and mandatory traffic school.

If you don’t understand what I am talking about, this means you.

Gordy B
5 months ago
Reply to  TIM MCRAE

Michigan uses the zipper, if there is an officer present at the merge point and you do not comply, you could get a ticket.

Spike
5 months ago

It seems a lot of drivers never even look, either by actually expending the effort to turn their head or use mirrors. They aimlessly wander down the ramp oblivious to the freeway traffic and feeling entitled to just be let in.

I will move over when I can, but most of the time have vehicles already along side or coming up fast. We have had people still on the ramp who are alongside us suddenly look with shock and horror that they have a 40+ ft “wall” blocking. their entrance. Sometimes I think they must be wearing horse blinders!

Now can we move on to what I call “the cheaters” that won’t merge until the very end in construction zones thereby causing massive traffic issues because they didn’t want to merge easily a mile or two back and get into their proper place in line??? 🙂

Last edited 5 months ago by Spike
TIM MCRAE
5 months ago
Reply to  Spike

WRONG! The mile warning is to let people know that a lane change is coming and to slow down and be ready to merge.

Traffic engineers have proven time and again that the zipper merge is safer and much more efficient.

Done properly traffic never stops at a merge point.

The real problem is over braking. One overbraker causes tailgating and 10 people behind them to over brake. Thats what causes stop and go. Mostly stop!

Indescriminent merging all over the place greatly exasibates the problem.

For thise who think it is about ‘fairness’ need to get over themselves! If both lanes are evenly full from the merge point back, no one is getting an unfair place in line, and the line is half the length!

Eileen Brown
5 months ago
Reply to  TIM MCRAE

Absolutely! I was taught the “polite” way but now know Zipper merging is better. 👍👍👍

Joe
5 months ago
Reply to  Spike

I usually move over as soon as I can after seeing the sign. It does frustrate me that some drivers feel they are special and need to fly like a bat out of H_ _ _ to get to the front of the line. When we get close to the point of the one lane I block it with the motorhome, it sure beats jamming on the brake to avoid being cutoff by jerks. Maybe that makes me a jerk but sitting 55 feet in front of them I can’t hear the horn or see the finger.

Sue
5 months ago
Reply to  Joe

Try thinking of it that they’re not jerks, they are just using a different system (the zipper merge). Next time, see if that thought helps your frustration level?

Sue
5 months ago
Reply to  Sue

Note, with a big rig, I’d still move over early, like you are doing.

Dr. Mike
5 months ago

Here in Florida there are many on ramps the merge with the highway and have the exit ramp less than 500 feet away. So while you are “mashing it” to merge, the person exiting is already going 70+ MPH to get ahead of you.

Bob
5 months ago

One big problem is that even if there is enough room to merge, the vehicle in the right lane SPEEDS up to cut you off. They don’t want to get behind you. It’s the same when there is a merge point because of construction.

isatnleft
5 months ago

Drivers, be aware of the fact that the traffic already on the roadway are not required to slow down in order for you to be able to merge! Get on it and get up to speed. If I can move over I will certainly do so. However, if I can’t move over, I am not required to slow down to let you in. It is up to you to get your act of merging into traffic, together… With mirrors, watch the traffic coming up, adjust your speed to help set you up for an opening, get up to the speed for the highway as soon as you can, have signal flashing your intent, figure it out please.

Steve
5 months ago
Reply to  isatnleft

Very well said. Like the signs on the ramps say: YIELD

Michael
5 months ago
Reply to  Steve

So…What’s the difference between yield and merge? Who has responsibilities for merging?

Travis
5 months ago
Reply to  isatnleft

I agree 100% but I can’t stand idiots that can’t be bothered to move over when the left lane is empty by a mile. I am like really! And its always some yahoo talking on his phone. The drivers I find to be most respectful when I am towing my RV is truckers. Probably because they understand the extra challenge of towing a trailer. Likewise I always move over when I can.

Gordy B
5 months ago
Reply to  Travis

There is no obligation to move over!! Truckers started it years ago to let other truckers in and (out of respect) it spread to cars. IT IS NOT AN OBLIGATION TO MOVE OVER! It is the RESPONSIBILITY of the MERGING driver to SPEED UP OR SLOW DOWN so as to merge with the flow of traffic as smooth as possible. So many drivers expect you to move over regardless of weather it is clear or not, and many will run themselves out of “ramp space”, without changing their speed, waiting for you to move over. The kicker is if you do move over they will run the same speed as you and merge. If you speed up they speed up, if you slow down they will slow down locking you in the left lane. The gist of it all is : Do what you think is right according to the situation and hope for a good outcome! HAPPY TRAILS

Snayte
5 months ago
Reply to  isatnleft

Agreed. Please DO NOT SLOW DOWN. I will probably slow to get behind you and if you are slowing too things will not work out well. If you are already on the interstate all you should do nothing. Exception being if you want to be polite and change lanes, just remember is it not polite to cut off traffic in the left lane to let someone in.

travilenman
5 months ago
Reply to  isatnleft

This is the way that is REQUIRED in the STATE of OREGON

Fred
5 months ago

I think many timid drivers feel it’s the responsibility of traffic on the Interstate to slow & create a space for them to get on the highway. That is not the case. The responsibility lies entirely with the entering driver to find a space to merge into at highway speed. Yes, some car drivers do slow to allow others in, but they can recover to highway speed quickly without affecting nearby traffic. Not the case with truckers & rvs. If a trucker slows to allow a car in, it can take the trucker a mile to get back up to speed. In the mean time he’s created a big traffic jam behind him. Also, if you see a trucker flash their headlights twice as you’re about to enter the travel lanes, it means they’re expecting you to move into the space in front of them, so you can confidently take that space.

Roger Marble
5 months ago
Reply to  Fred

Yes Fred. You are correct

Richard Hughes
5 months ago

Living in Arizona, cars merging onto the interstates is one of the major problems. Many of ramps leave the driver entering with limited vision. Add to that a major portion of the population who have no business behind the wheel. Plus, put these drivers in an RV and it is accidents waiting to happen. The article describes, not only RV’s, but cars here as well.

Last edited 5 months ago by Richard Hughes
Bob p
5 months ago

When I was 15 1/2 years old(63 yrs ago) I learned how to merge and our drivers Ed never went near the interstate, it’s a simple maneuver, people who can’t merge must’ve been asleep when it was taught. I’ve only seen a few on ramps that wasn’t long enough to get up to speed and MERGE into traffic. Even those would be long enough if you MASHED ON IT!

Tom H
5 months ago

I am surprised at how many people have no idea how to merge into traffic. It’s not just RVers either. Thanks for sharing this.

tom
5 months ago

We, when on the high speed road, always pull over into the center land to allow ramp traffic to get on the road. simple common courtesy.

Greg K
5 months ago

Yes, there should be a “Merging 101” course and it should be part of a road exam. I taught my children that when moving on the ramp, use mirrors and look ahead to find an open spot. When the front left corner of the vehicle is merging into a lane, they should be moving no slower than traffic and if need be, step on it to get in a spot. I only had to tell my daughter once to ‘FLOOR IT” and for my son, it came naturally from observing me merging!
It’s pretty sad that when towing, I can almost push many non-towing vehicles on the ramp when getting up to speed, even on uphill ramps.
Another item is for those already in a lane of traffic to let vehicles merge. Moving left when possible and by doing so, not disrupting the traffic in the center or left lane is preferred and if it’s not possible, especially in congestion, let one or two vehicles in front of you merge; in most cases only costs you seconds added to your trip.

Last edited 5 months ago by Greg K
Sue
5 months ago
Reply to  Greg K

YES! “Look ahead”! As soon as you can look back and see what specific vehicles you’re likely to be merging with, eye out a likely space! Yes, the situation may change by the time you merge, but you at least have some options and awareness. Hopefully this was obvious.

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