Minnesotans: Please Do Not Do This At A Merge On A Roadway
I can appreciate the sentiment of "Minnesota Nice", but I recently witnessed it cause some frustration — and nearly an accident, on two occasions.
I'll paint the scene for you: I am accelerating on an on-ramp to get on the freeway. As I make my way down the on-ramp, I see a car in the right lane on the freeway, traveling at what I estimate is a speed that will require me to slow down so they can get past the merge point and I can safely enter the road after them.
Recognizing this, I slow down as I continue down the on-ramp to allow this person to get past the on-ramp. In reaction to this, the person on the freeway slows down well below the speed of the flow of traffic to seemingly allow me onto the road in front of them. In the process, vehicles behind this car were forced to slow down, with one person even swerving out of the way, around the slowed vehicle.
The person on the freeway actually slowed down to a near crawl, waiting for me to get out onto the freeway in front of them. So I had to punch it, getting out in front of this vehicle and trying to avoid the angry drivers who were flying around this slowed-down car.
This nearly exact same situation happened to me not once, but twice in the last few weeks.
Despite this freeway driver seemingly trying to be nice (I presume), it was actually frustrating for most of the drivers in the area. Plus, it was against traffic laws.
Minnesota State Statute states that the driver entering the roadway (me, in these cases) must yield the right-of-way to those approaching on the roadway. So, if necessary, the person on an on-ramp is the driver that is supposed to slow down, or even stop. Now, slowing down or stopping isn't ideal, as you want to be at highway speed (that's the point of an on-ramp), but if anyone is supposed to slow down or stop if there is ever a need to do so, it is the person merging. Not someone on the freeway. So, as I tried to follow the law, this other driver in these instances insisted on breaking with the code of conduct that is supposed to be followed in these situations.
Now, it is possible that these right-lane drivers were worried I was unaware of their presence and that I was just going to fly onto the highway, not following the rules of the road. I've had that happen before, too — where someone flew out onto the freeway, unaware of anyone else on the road, cutting people off. So, I get the potential concern.
Another variable in these situations was the left lane. In both cases, this was a double-lane freeway. In one instance, the driver could have (and should have) moved over into the left lane, as there was no traffic in that lane. That is (according to a Minnesota State Patrol officer) the recommendation if you can do so safely. In the other instance, there was traffic in the left lane, so it wasn't an option for the driver that slowed down.
Driving is a huge exercise in trust. Trusting that the other drivers on the road are going to follow the same rules that you know so you can anticipate their behavior. That's why it is important that if you don't know the proper rules or laws about a driving situation, you should look them up. The Minnesota Department of Public Safety website has extensive rules, guidelines, and other advice for safe driving on roadways. This even includes the Minnesota Driver's Manual you might remember from when you learned how to drive.
If it's been a while since you've looked at this (for most people, it was when they got their driver's license), there's a lot of new stuff in there. Things like proper driving in a roundabout, newer types of intersections, and other rules you might not know about.
I know, it sounds kind of "better than thou" to say something like that. But seriously, not knowing the right thing to do in situations like this can at best be frustrating, and at worst, cause accidents.
A lot of people famously complain about some of these things. There are all kinds of memes about things like roundabouts, merges, and the dreaded "zipper merge". Most of them are because people don't know the proper rules of the road.
Be safe out there, folks.
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