Alexis and I seem to be having similar issues on I-35 with illiterate drivers:
I-35 goes down to a single lane in each direction for a few miles between Rush City and North Branch. In the lead up to the merge, MNDOT has installed signs that clearly state to use both lanes when traffic is backed up. They do this because they’re reminding people that the zipper method is the way to most efficiently move traffic through bottlenecks: continue in both lanes of traffic up to the point of the merge, then take turns merging. It’s not a particularly difficult concept (it can be explained in a sentence, or even more concisely on a traffic sign), but that doesn’t stop Minnesota drivers from screwing it up.
That brings me to this past Friday, where I experienced driving illiteracy first-hand. As traffic began slowing down, MNDOT started publishing signs that the left lane would be closed 7 miles ahead, then 6, 5, etc. That, apparently, was the right time to move to the right, according to people who couldn’t comprehend what “USE BOTH LANES” means.
Some of the people suffering from premature mergulation started getting trafficly frustrated with the more literate drivers who continued cruising along in the left lane. I saw two different reactions from this group:
1. Some would drive in the right lane and swing to the left to block literate drivers from continuing to the merge point. I’ve found that this type of driver is easy to get around as it become more and more clear in their mirrors that I won’t be slowing down when I get to them. While based on poor understanding of road signs, the behavior is rational. If people pass you, they’ll surely lead to further delays through the merge point.
2. The other type of behavior I saw is pictured below:
This illiterate driver, rather than sit in the right lane and block out drivers, chose to drive in the left lane and maintain a steady pace next to a car in the right lane, thus shutting down one of two lanes on an interstate highway. While the right-lane-swayer’s behavior seems rational since the driver is trying to save time, this illiterate driver proved that she has no respect for the time of people behind her, her passengers, or her own time.
Yes, she is at a dead stop with over a mile of open lane in front of her. She’s riding the yellow line because a driver did manage to get around her by driving in the ditch.
Here is a snippet from a MNDOT press release explaining the zipper method:
This “take turns” technique, known as the zipper method, is used when traffic is congested. In this instance, drivers should use both lanes all the way to the designated merge point and then take turns merging.
Drivers are also reminded not to play vigilante by blocking or denying access to other drivers who are using the other lane of traffic prior to the bridge. Minnesota State Patrol officers will patrol the work zone to enforce traffic laws and respond to incidents. Extra law enforcement throughout the construction zone will increase safety for the traveling public and construction workers on site. Drivers also are reminded that fines are doubled for infractions in the work zone.
Frankly, I’m not sure why I just wrote this. Someone literate enough to read a blog is certainly literate enough to understand what “USE BOTH LANES” means when they see it on a traffic sign. Perhaps this could be a motivator to reach out to illiterate friends, neighbors, aunts & uncles to explain the concept? Together, we can make Minnesota’s roads more efficient.