Merging Traffic

Let’s create a harmonious convergence.

Merge lanes put you on a converging path with other drivers, but that doesn’t mean you can’t decide when to merge.

Sometimes it makes more sense to move early and control the lane that will continue. Other times the merge lane provides a good space to release a platoon of traffic.


Topic 9: Merging Traffic

Topic Introduction

Merge lanes put you on a converging path with other drivers, but you can decide when to merge. Let’s look at some strategies to handle merge lanes.

Two Lanes to One

When you’re on a road that is going to merge down to a single lane in each direction, it’s usually a good strategy to use the merge lane as a pre-release.

Stay in the lane and adjust your speed to allow the platoon of traffic to pass, then merge in the gap. This will make your entry onto the two-lane road more pleasant.

Here’s what it looks like on the ground:

After the intersection, the right through lane will become a merge lane. The left through lane will continue onto a two-lane road.

On the approach, we see that the motorists have already sorted themselves into their preferred lanes. There is a long queue in the right-turn lane, and a long queue in the left through lane.

Motorists will avoid that right lane, unless they are going to the business on the other side of the intersection, or until the left lane queue becomes so long that they might not make it through on the green light.

When the light turns green, we ride slowly, so the platoon can get past us.

Finally, the traffic light shuts down the flow. We wave for the driver behind us to pass before moving left into the empty lane.

For the next several minutes, the only traffic that will approach from behind us will be cars that turn onto this road. That’s more manageable for control & release than a thick pack of traffic coming out of a fresh green light.

Three Lanes to Two

When there are two or more through lanes downstream, you have some choices.

You could use the merge lane to let a platoon go by, and then get the road to yourself, as we did in the previous video.

But if the merge lane also serves a busy commercial driveway, you might be better off to move into the next lane before the intersection. Your decision might also depend on the traffic conditions you find while approaching the previous intersection.

In this video we are on a road with three lanes in each direction. The right lane will become a merge lane on the other side of the intersection.

We choose to move early to the center lane, because of the conditions we’re reading right here. We’re approaching the back of a platoon, and the light is about to turn green.

The next platoon will not make this light, so we know there will not be traffic behind us to release.

By the time we pass through the merge point, the next wave of traffic will be approaching.

By the time we get to the other side of the intersection, there are no more cars behind us. Some trucks turn right from the cross street and are able pass easily.

The next pack of traffic turned left from dual turn lanes on the cross street. By the time they get to us, we’re at the end of that merge lane.

Since we’re clearly established in the lane, they have ample time to change lanes.

Lesson Review

It takes time to build the confidence to take on the kind of road features we’ve discussed in this lesson. Hopefully by reading traffic patterns and using gaps, you’ll be able to remove some of the intimidating barriers from your travels.

Maybe you’ll even find the mastery of it so energizing that you’ll seek out such challenges. If you do, share it with us! Send us a map, or a video.

We’d love to hear and share the story of your success. You’ll find a link to the contact form in the resources section below the video.

In our next lesson we’ll explore how signs and markings help us plan ahead.


Do you have a success story or video to share? Contact us!