Ask a Trooper: Drive safely through work zones; practice zipper merge
Question: I was told that the speeding fine in a construction zone had gone up recently. Could you also explain the zipper merge for merging into construction zones in Minnesota?
Answer: With a recent area work zone crash that left two people injured, this is a great time to talk about work zone safety.
During the spring and summer months, construction season is in full swing in Minnesota and motorists risk their lives and the lives of others by not slowing down and paying attention.
• In the past five years (2011-15), 39 people have died and more than 3,700 people injured in work zone traffic crashes.
• In 2015, 10 people died in work zone traffic crashes, the most since 2010 (12).
• When driving in a construction zone, slow down. Work zone fines for speeding are more than $300.
• Put the distractions away: Distracted driving is a leading factor in crashes in Minnesota and a driver needs to focus 100 percent of their attention on the road.
• Move over for construction workers and their vehicles, as it will provide safety for not only the workers but the motorists as well.
• Never drive impaired.
• Wear your seatbelt as it can save your life.
• Check out 511mn.org for road closures, detours and traffic incidents.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation urges motorists to use both lanes of traffic in a construction zone. Traffic should not merge together until reaching the designated merge area. At that time, vehicles should alternate in a "zipper" fashion into the open lane.
Some drivers slow too quickly and move over to the lane that will continue through the construction area. This driving behavior can lead to unexpected and dangerous lane switching, serious crashes and road rage.
Some motorists will intentionally drive slow or block the lane that is closing because they believe drivers trying to "beat" the traffic are rude. This is not only dangerous and can lead to a crash or road rage but it's also illegal. Remember, the driver using the open lane is following the proper way to merge.
Studies show that the "zipper merge" works the best to keep traffic flowing, especially when there is a lot of traffic, by:
• Reducing differences in speeds between two lanes.
• Reducing the overall length of traffic backup by as much as 40 percent.
• Reducing congestion on freeway interchanges.
• Creating a sense of fairness and equity that all lanes are moving at the same rate.
A portion of state statutes were used with permission from the Office of the Revisor of Statutes. If you have any questions concerning traffic related laws or issues in Minnesota, send your questions to Sgt. Neil Dickenson - Minnesota State Patrol at 1131 Mesaba Ave., Duluth, MN 55811. (You can follow me on Twitter @MSPPIO_NE or reach me at email@example.com).