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3 Driving Tips to Make Seattle Traffic Slightly Less Awful

A line of cars sitting in traffic with their brake lights on

Three years ago, we ran a story about a little-known traffic tip known as the “zipper merge.”

In short: Drivers should use all lanes leading up to a merge point, rather than clog up one lane. Arrived at the front of the line, drivers in all lanes take turns merging. This is not cheating! (See image above for why the seemingly polite way gunks up traffic.)

We wondered if there were other such counterintuitive tips, and there are! Behold:

The zipper merge

It might seem selfish, but the best way to ease congestion, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation, is to drive right up to the closure before merging over.

“There can be the weird idea that goes through people’s head that, ‘Those people are cheating, they’re cutting in line,’” said spokesman Travis Phelps. “Well, it actually helps traffic flow if you can let folks in. Play nice with the other person, let them in. Treat traffic like a team sport,” Phelps said.

Phelps said that merging in the middle can create a small choke point. The trick is to put on your blinker, don’t make any sudden movements and don’t try to force your way in.

Also, make sure to give a courtesy wave to your fellow drivers.

“This is something we’re all in together,” he said. “So if we can play nice for four days, that’s great.”

Mark Hallenbeck, Director of the Washington State Transportation Center, specified that the zipper merge is great in slow traffic — not when you’re moving quickly…

Read the next two tips that will help reduce traffic jams in KUOW

 & Amy Rolph