No matter how skilled a driver you are, trouble arises when you have to merge in or around Seattle. Traffic in King County and surrounding areas is, regrettably, horrendous. A recent study found the Seattle area has some of the worst traffic congestion in the nation.
Merging is where a great deal of this congestion arises. It also is where many serious and fatal crashes arise. When a driver who is merging into traffic fails to pay proper attention to what they are doing and yield the right of way to the other traffic, collisions are bound to happen.
The Rules of Merging
Merging onto the highway or another major road can be a frustrating experience, particularly with Seattle traffic. Busy highways leave little room for new vehicles to maneuver. It is when vehicles are coming onto a highway from an entrance ramp into heavy traffic where misunderstandings arise.
Many drivers feel it is obvious they need to get onto the highway. Why won’t the drivers on the freeway leave the room and let them over? Because drivers on the highway have the right of way.
Drivers who are already on the freeway, whether traffic is moving at 40 mph or 65mph, have no obligation to move over or change their speed for those merging. Drivers who do move over when possible do so out of courtesy, not an obligation.
This right of way arises from several Washington laws: RCW 46.61.195, RCW 46.61.190, and RCW 46.61.140. The first statute designates highways as arterial highways, which have preference over other traffic. The second dictates vehicles entering an arterial roadway must yield to the vehicles already on the arterial. The third states a vehicle should be driven in a single lane and should not move to a new lane until that maneuver can be done safely.
Zipper Merging Missing in Washington?
Many states teach “zipper merging” for entering a highway or for when a lane is coming to an end, such as when a three-lane highway is moved down to two lanes for construction. Zipper merging is the process of the arterial lane letting in the merging lane every other vehicle.
One vehicle on the arterial lane moves forward, and a merging vehicle follows. A second vehicle on the arterial moves forward and a second merging vehicle follows, and so on. The process resembles the name.
You may see people refer to this as a late merge because zipper merging requires merging drivers to use the entire ramp or ending lane before merging onto the arterial roadway.
A late merger may be safer, which is why Colorado, Kansas, and other states are encouraging drivers to use this method. Zipper merging also is recommended by AAA.
Were You Hurt in a Lane Merger Car Accident?
Improper merging occurs when the motorist who must move into traffic fails to do so carefully and in accordance with the law. As discussed above, the vehicle already on the arterial roadway has the right of way. It is up to the motorist trying to enter a lane of traffic to do so safely and without causing a crash.
Some of the most common reasons a merging motorist fails to do so safely include not maintaining a proper lookout for traffic, failing to check a blind spot, distracted driving, fatigue or sleepiness, impaired driving, and driving too fast in bad weather.
When a collision occurs during or immediately after a merge, it is likely the merging motorist’s fault—though this may not be true 100% of the time. When you are injured in a crash caused by a merging vehicle, it is important to contact the Seattle Police Department. You will benefit from having an officer respond to the scene to control traffic, perform a cursory investigation, and write an accident report.
What to Do After an Improper Merging Crash in Seattle?
After an improper merging accident, we recommend you contact the police, exchange information, take photos or videos of the vehicles crash, and seek medical attention if needed. Once you are safe and received any needed medical treatment, the best next step is to contact an experienced Seattle personal injury attorney.
A lawyer from Menzer Law Firm will thoroughly investigate the collision and gather evidence of the other driver’s fault to pursue fair compensation for your injuries. Contact us today through our online form or by calling (206) 903-1818.