MoDOT's Toughest Challenge: Getting Missouri Drivers to Merge Like a Zipper


Quick quiz!

When you see orange barrels ahead indicating that your lane is closing, do you:

a) race ahead to the point of closure, bypassing the cars patiently lining up in the open lane, or
b) merge as soon as you safely can, making your way into the lane that will stay open? Sure, you might wait in a long line of cars, but anything else is just rude.

If you answered (b), the Missouri Department of Transportation has some bad news for you.

You're part of the problem.

Yes, you, polite Missouri driver. Forget giving dirty looks to cars that race ahead to the closure point. And forget trying to block those cheaters with your car.

MoDOT would rather you join them.

In a campaign that's kicked off this week with ads on both terrestrial and online radio, the agency is urging drivers to do something that seems unthinkable in the Midwest: Be selfish, cruise along in that open lane and then "merge like a zipper."

Linda Wilson Horn, a spokeswoman for the agency, realizes that everything in your upbringing has taught you to resist this action. "It's a hard thing to educate on, because people think it's rude," she says. "We knew that having a couple little spots was not going to change people's behavior on this. That's when we decided to do a full seasonable campaign focused on it in 2016."

The ads will run from April to October, though this week's blitz is a special saturation time. (There will be another weeklong blitz in July and one again at the end of summer.) They also intend to push the idea throughout the summer on social media.

And lest you still resist the urge to drive more selfishly, please know science is on MoDOT's side. The Minnesota Department of Transportation has been hitting this message hard, Horn says, and seeing big results. "When the traffic uses both lanes and waits 'til the end to merge, it reduces wait times up to 40 percent," she says. "It's huge."

This weekend, she adds, I-55 northbound will be down to one lane at Route Z in Jefferson County. If you get stuck in that mess, please don't extend your middle finger toward the drivers racing past you to the merge point. Instead, mouth a silent "thank you" and practice that zipper. That is the truly polite thing to do.

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