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UK driving etiquette question

Poll #1784651 UK driving question

You're driving on a UK dual carriageway. The outside lane merges into the left because of roadworks. Should you...

Get into the left-hand lane as soon as possible.
Get into the left-hand, but leave enough of your vehicle in the right-hand lane to stop people 'jumping the queue'
Merge in turn.

EDIT: The question doesn't explicitly state that the traffic has slowed because of the roadworks. It has. This may or may not affect your answer.



( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 6th, 2011 11:34 am (UTC)
This question is hard, not least because I'm an American and I had to mentally place myself on the wrong side of the road and the wrong side of the car to answer. :)
Oct. 6th, 2011 11:44 am (UTC)
Other countries have a concept of merging like a zipper. This is a good concept.

The UK doesn't, so you end up with a dominance battle of people who merged immediately and people who decide to leave it to the last minute and force their way in.

So, if you don't want to look like a jerk (i.e. behave according to etiquette), you merge as soon as you can. Of course, if you don't want to BE a jerk and you're in the left hand lane, then you should let other people merge in without having to push their way in or stop.

Ditto for if you have people merging at a motorway/dual carriageway junction. Person already on the road in left hand lane has right of way over person at junction. But it is both polite and desirable for the smooth flow of traffic if person already on road in left hand lane moves over or adjusts their speed to allow people to join, if they possibly can.
Oct. 6th, 2011 12:46 pm (UTC)
I'm afraid I think that 'merge as soon as you can' is being a jerk, because that means that a 10-second temporary narrowing is being turned into a long stretch of one lane road, and holds everyone up.

All the people who insist on moving over early create a constriction that is much longer than the actual lane closure, even though *the Highway Code explicitly tells them not to and quite often there are signs telling them not to do this as well*.

This is particularly irritating when you didn't even want to go past the constriction, but are turning off before it. But because of all the people who *insist* on being in the left lane early, the people who actually want to leave and go elsewhere can't get off the road!

The 'move over early' people also get confused when the lane that is closed is actually the left one. I was on one of those the other day : the right lane was open, the left lane was closed, so as I was in the right lane anyway, I stayed there at a steady speed. For some reason, the left lane was clogged, but I assumed this was with people who were turning left at the oncoming junction.

But no! it was all people who had surged left far too early, like sheep, having failed to look at the sign properly. They then got confused and baffled when the lane they were in only offered them the chance to turn left, not go on. If they'd actually obeyed the signs, it would have been quicker and a lot safer for all of them (and much less annoying to the people who genuinely wanted to turn left).

Mind you, it would also be nice if people observed the other rule 'do not switch lanes to overtake queuing traffic'. If people didn't do that, then the left-laners would probably feel happier about merging in turn.
Oct. 6th, 2011 04:32 pm (UTC)
I'm honestly not at all sure that merging early causes any more delay than merging late. The delay comes from two lanes merging. When they merge at Point A, then drive in single file, or merge at Point B, the merging time is the same. Moreover, merging early could actually be quicker overall, since it's less urgent. If you see that your lane is disappearing in a mile, and respond by hopping into the first natural gap you spot in the left-hand lane, you can move over without inconveniencing or slowing anyone. If you stay in your lane until it disappears, you've got no choice but to slow right down or stop until someone lets you in.

Though, either way, I think that the whole system works best if everyone does the same thing, whatever that is. The worst delays are caused when half the people follow one custom, and the other half follow the other.
Oct. 6th, 2011 06:21 pm (UTC)
You are missing out the problem of junctions. If the left lane is full of 300 cars who are very slowly queuing to get past a narrow bit, then if they all move over early and queue in one lane, perhaps with a couple of Queue Police straddling the road to prevent anyone moving forward into the empty space - they sit there static, filling 300 car-lengths of road, with 300 more car-lengths of road sitting empty on the right hand side, where it's no good to anyone.

If they queued in both lanes, they would only be filling up 150 car-lengths of road, leaving 150 car-lengths empty behind them so that anyone who wants to turn left in that space can do so.

This often means that someone who actually wants to turn off before they got anywhere near the narrow bit gets stuck in the congestion, and if the junction before the lane closure is a popular one, you can end up creating an entirely unnecessary gridlock. This used to happen quite often when I commuted into Liverpool by car, and also on the Thelwall viaduct, where I have spent many happy gridlocked hours considering this problem.
Oct. 6th, 2011 06:29 pm (UTC)
and when I say 'Queue Police' I don't mean actual police. I mean people who have apparently not read the Highway code (there is time to do this when you are stationary on the Thelwall Viaduct), but ARE happy to gridlock an entire sodding motorway in their quest to enforce their version of road manners.

*is bitter*
Oct. 6th, 2011 09:11 pm (UTC)
Oops. I'd meant to add a "but I can see that the presence of an exit shortly before the obstruction could make a difference," and this is especially the case if it's a popular one.

In general, though, I think that there will inevitably be a long queue in the lead up to a constriction in heavy traffic, regardless of how and when the lanes merge. In a perfect automated system, it might work, but drivers are fallible and dither and pause to double-check and make mistakes. When a car breaks down on one lane, everyone has to change lane at the last minute, since there are no helpful advance warning signs, and you generally get total gridlock for miles. (Said with feeling; we were stuck in a five mile well-nigh stationary queue on the A31 the other week because of a breakdown somewhere ahead.)

But I'm fairly sure we all discussed this with fervour at some previous Butteller, so I know we'll never agree on this. I bet all our roleplaying characters disagreed on lane discipline in dungeons, too. :-)
Oct. 6th, 2011 01:22 pm (UTC)
I am not a driver, so obviously you need to take that into consideration, but I was certainly under the impression that the correct thing to do was to get into the left-hand lane as soon as possible. We wouldn't try to block the right-hand lane, but we'd certainly feel that people who didn't move over straight away and who then tried to force their way in were behaving badly.

Someone who doesn't move over straight away is queue jumping - that worst of all possible social offences. ;-)

Having said that, I can certainly see bunn's point - what she says makes a lot of sense. It's just not the way that people have been socialised to drive.
Oct. 6th, 2011 02:46 pm (UTC)
I've said merge as soon as possible, but what I really mean is go left at a sensibly early time - not so early as to get in the way, but not so late as to have to desperately have to push in at the last minute.
Oct. 6th, 2011 03:39 pm (UTC)
I'm the sole vote for "stopping people from jumping the queue", but I mean very much the same thing. I just won't stand for it to get in when it's sensible and then have a dozen cars race past me. But then, I have a temper.
Oct. 6th, 2011 03:55 pm (UTC)
I haven't clicked the poll since my answer would be "Merge in turn if possible" and I guess I normally treat "merge in turn" as pull left one car behind the one the car in front of you pulled in behind and that can end up being a long way from the actual road narrowing once everyone has got well and truly congested. It often isn't possible to merge in turn anyway since it does seem to require everyone to be playing the same game. If I can't merge in turn I just get into the left-hand lane when I can.
Oct. 6th, 2011 04:06 pm (UTC)
Since we only have a few hundred yards of dual carriageway here, I don't actually have experience of this situation. However, near the end of the dual carriageway, another road comes in from the left. The dual carriageway is almost always very queuey at this point. 99% of drivers stop at the start of the slip road and are allowed to merge in turn. A very small number of people drive to the end of the slip road, and it is very clear that everyone thinks of them as queue jumpers and exude gloweriness at them.
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )