The rules for approaching lane closures

The key to safe merging

There is probably nowhere that the unofficial rules of the road are "enforced" by other drivers like that of the lane closure line up.

You know, it’s the long line of traffic that forms on one side of the highway after drivers pass the “lane closed ahead” advisory signs.

When a driver dares to drive by waiting traffic using the empty lane, I've seen people open their doors or swerve partially into that lane to let other drivers know they are supposed to be in the line up, not using the empty lane to get ahead.

These "enforcement" actions are illegal. One must not open a door when it is unsafe to do so or change lanes when doing so would affect other traffic.

If traffic is light and no line has formed, merging early is perfectly acceptable. Due to the lower volume, a backup will not form to cause delay.

When traffic is heavier than what can be accommodated by a single lane, continue with caution using both lanes and at the end merge like the teeth in a zipper before proceeding through the zone single file.

A zipper merge alleviates the risks of queue jumping and road rage by creating a uniform system of merging that uses the full capacity of the road and increases the fairness of merging under conditions that are high stress for many drivers.

Other benefits include a reduction in speed differences between lanes and a reduction in the overall length of traffic backup by as much as 40 percent.

These practices are acceptable because the black on orange signs used in these situations are advisory. A driver can choose to take the advice (or not) as their experience, traffic and road conditions dictate in the circumstances.

Flag persons, cones, barricades and the like are traffic control devices that must be obeyed. Once you reach them at the point where the lane is closed, it is an offence to fail to follow their requirements. Then you must move over as indicated, but not before.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement experience. He has been writing his column for most of the 20 years of his service in the RCMP.

The column was 'The Beat Goes On' in Fort St. John, 'Traffic Tips' in the South Okanagan and now 'Behind the Wheel' on Vancouver Island and here on Castanet.net.

Schewe retired from the force in January of 2006, but the column has become a habit, and continues.

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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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