Do You Zipper Merge?

zippermergecropWhile driving back from Indianapolis last Sunday, I started noticing cars pull over into an increasingly congested left lane. I followed suit, thinking they had seen something ahead in the right lane.

Traffic quickly drew to a halt in the left lane, with right lane wide open. So after a few minutes, I inched over there far enough for some of my passengers to scout ahead. They confirmed that there was nothing at all in the right lane, at least not for quite some distance.

We proceeded to debate what to do. I recalled an article a few years ago that said that everyone benefits in thick traffic if each driver pursues their own best interest until the very end of the line, where you are do perform a zipper merge (cars from each lane alternate moving forward). This is especially the case in an extreme example like what was happening on Sunday–hundreds of cars were using 1 lane even when 2 lanes were available. So I proposed we move into the right lane and proceed, hoping others would follow our example.

The counterargument–the one in favor of staying in the left lane with all other cars–would, as my copilot said, make us look like dicks. (Pardon my language.)

So that was the dilemma. We chose not to draw the ire from all of the left lane cars, and we stayed in our place. However, when we got back to St. Louis, one of my friends learned that the Missouri Department of Transportation actually recommends that we be dicks and use the zipper merge in the exact situation we encountered.

What do you think? What would you have done?