Merging onto a highway is less nerve-wracking if performed properly

By DPA | 3 August 2020

BERLIN: Merging onto the highway isn't an easy task for those with weak nerves: You're trying to judge the speed of the other cars and match it before the approach lane runs out and there's no more road.

Things can get dangerous when drivers don't properly judge other cars' speed, distance or acceleration capacity, causing them to brake or make evasive manoeuvres that can spin out of control, says Achmed Leser from Tuv Thuringia, a top German technical inspection agency.

So how should drivers properly merge onto a highway?

In general, the cars driving in a continuous lane have right-of-way, something that not only drivers trying to merge onto the highway should take into account, but also those driving in the merging lane.

The driver in the merging lane "must not obstruct or endanger others by braking or changing to the other lane without paying attention to surrounding traffic just to let someone on the highway," says Leser.

When entering the highway, drivers should absolutely not use the "zipper method," which is a way to merge when roads narrow.

Instead, the entering driver should use the approach lane to adapt to traffic flow. "When entering the highway, drivers should have their turn signal on, and should change over to the appropriate lane by filling in a suitable gap, without obstructing others," says Leser.

In fact, drivers can go faster in the approach lane than the other continuous lanes, meaning they can use the entire length to speed up and pass slower-moving cars while entering the highway, if need be.

Of course, if the approach lane isn't long enough to accelerate in time, then the entering driver needs to brake and get behind the slower vehicle. Using the hard shoulder is a no-no in this case.

If there's no way the driver can merge seamlessly into traffic, then necessity dictates that he or she comes to a full halt and must wait until the lane opens up. When the time comes, it's important to take into account how long it will take to accelerate from a standstill.