One thing Aussie drivers suck at. Picture: NT Department of Transport
One thing Aussie drivers suck at. Picture: NT Department of Transport

Avoid road rage by learning these two rules

A ROAD rule, which in theory seems like it should be easy to follow, is infuriating drivers, with many Australians seemingly unable to get the hang of it.

The laws around merging on our roads are pretty simple, and there are only two rules drivers need to remember.

When a motorist is travelling in a marked lane that is coming to an end, they are required to merge into another lane across a broken painted line.

In this case, the driver travelling in the ending lane must give way to traffic travelling in the lane being entered, even if they are slightly ahead.

Car A gives way to Car B as it is travelling in a lane that is ending and must cross broken painted lines. Picture: Road Safety NSW
Car A gives way to Car B as it is travelling in a lane that is ending and must cross broken painted lines. Picture: Road Safety NSW

The second merging tactic drivers need to be aware of is the "zipper merge".

This relates to when a driver is travelling on a road where two lanes merge into one. In this situation, a driver must give way to whoever is in front of them.

This allows traffic to move into a single lane seamlessly.

"When driving on a road without lane markings, or where the lane markings end before the two lines of traffic merge, you must give way to the vehicle ahead of you. This is commonly known as a zipper merge," Centre for Road Safety executive director, Bernard Carlon, said.

Car B gives way to Car A as the lane is merging into one, and vehicles must give way to those in front. Picture: Road Safety NSW
Car B gives way to Car A as the lane is merging into one, and vehicles must give way to those in front. Picture: Road Safety NSW

"When you are driving in a marked lane which is ending and you have to cross a broken painted line to enter the adjacent lane, you must give way to the vehicles travelling in that lane."

Unfortunately, many drivers either don't understand or deliberately ignore these rules, particularly in heavy traffic.

Merging incorrectly can have serious consequences for both the person merging and those around them.

NRMA spokesman, Peter Khoury, told news.com.au that even if a bad merge didn't cause an accident, it could slow down already heavy traffic.

"Merging incorrectly can be really dangerous. You could rear-end someone, cause an accident or slow everyone else down," he said.

"Drivers are often merging at speed onto a motorway, so it is really important that it is done right."

But it isn't always the person merging who is the issue. There is a major problem with drivers refusing to make room for people trying to move lanes.

NRMA research listed drivers who block people from merging as the second most frustrating act on Australian roads, beaten only by tailgating.

"If you are on a multi-lane motorway and you can see people are trying to merge, it always makes sense to move over into the middle lane if you can do so and make space," Mr Khoury said.

"Not letting people in or merging dangerously isn't going to get you to your destination any quicker."

WHAT IT CAN COST YOU

Though it may not seem likely given how many drivers incorrectly merge each day, but motorists can be fined if they are caught not following the merging rules.

In New South Wales not properly giving way to a vehicle when merging can land you with a $337 fine and three demerit points.

Drivers caught merging incorrectly in the Australian Capital Territory face a $292 fine and three demerit points.

You will cop a $242 fine in Victoria, or a $100 fine and two points if you are caught in Western Australia.

South Australia has the toughest penalties for this offence - a $392 fine and three points.

Queensland has the second highest fine at $391 accompanied by three demerit points.

Not following the rules in the Northern Territory and Tasmania could cost you $163 and three points.

Merging, particularly at high speeds, can be dangerous.
Merging, particularly at high speeds, can be dangerous.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

There are always going to be drivers who either don't understand the rules around merging or just flat out ignore them.

"It could be a combination of people being too focused on what is in front of them and not being aware of other drivers, and of those motorists that just don't like to let others in," Mr Khoury said.

Unfortunately, accidents are more likely to happen because of these drivers.

But there are things you can do to help you stay safe, even if others get it wrong.

  • Don't drive too slowly when trying to merge. Keep your speed similar to the traffic you are trying to merge with so as not to disrupt the flow.
  • Avoid stopping in the merging lane, particularly when entering freeways, as this can make merging more difficult.
  • If there is a merging lane available on a multi-lane road use it instead of waiting to cross over to the lane you want to be in.
  • Always check your mirrors and blind spots before merging and use your indicators
  • Maintain a safe distance from the car in front of you to avoid clipping the car when merging.
  • Be considerate in heavy traffic and allow other cars to merge.

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