How to Merge Safely on a Highway

how to properly merge on a highway
The best way to merge when traffic is congested.

Safe highway merging requires the proper mix of cooperation and courtesy between drivers. After all, it’s all about sharing space.

Quick – take a glance at your clothing and you’ll likely see the best analogy for merging… the zipper (it’s also one of the greatest Canadian inventions, too, eh?). For the zipper to work properly, opposing teeth must alternate smoothly. In high traffic scenarios in which two lanes reduce to one lane, for example, merging works much the same.

Just like depicted in the image, the merging cars and those continuing straight ahead take turns moving into the single lane. A “lane ends” sign marks the spot where this dance should happen.

Not all merging situations are the same, however. Entering a highway can be a bit more complicated because merging is done at higher speeds and drivers have to be more aware of surrounding vehicles. There can be a lot going on at once. We recommend breaking the process down by following these five steps for safe highway merging:

Step 1: Accelerate to match the speed of highway traffic as you travel on ramp.
Step 2: Be aware of your surroundings by checking mirrors and blind spots.
Step 3: Flick your blinker signal on to let other drivers know you plan to shift lanes.
Step 4: Speed up or slow down slightly if a vehicle is right beside you, positioning your vehicle to enter an open space.
Step 5: Merge gradually into the neighbouring lane by following the path of the merging ramp.
Bonus Step (optional): Give a friendly “thank you” wave to the driver who gave you space to help you merge safely.

Voila – now you’re cruising the highway.

On the other hand (er, lane), vehicles already travelling the highway should help merging vehicles by offering space and changing lanes when it’s safe to do so. If it’s not safe to change lanes, adjust your speed to create space ahead or behind you.

Hopefully this blog encourages everyone to move in the same direction safely and smoothly. Let’s work together for safe merging.

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Page 1 of 72 comments on “How to Merge Safely on a Highway”

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  1. the merge is the way it should be except in Ontario. Her the centre lane has the ROW and the right lane ends and must yield. the transition is painted with 20 cm lines and 3 metre dots. Now the average speed inthe passing lane is 15 km faster that the approach speed. I believe the merge breeds cooperation!!

    • Hi Christine – thanks for your comment.

      When your lane ends or you are the driver merging with other traffic, the onus is on you to move over safely. You must not affect the travel of another vehicle.

      The Learn to Drive Smart from ICBC explains merging on pages 55 and 56. The advice involves finding a safe gap beside your vehicle by adjusting your speed and then moving over.

      Drivers around you should exercise courtesy by helping to establish that safe gap. Move over into an empty lane or adjust speed accordingly. Hope this helps clarify.

  2. Two comments. Your diagram shows the vehicles too close together ie: not enough space for the car to fit between the other cars. and You should mention the 2 or 3 second rule for driving speed which automatically leaves such space and there is not no reason for any driver other than the merging one to adjust their speed as they enter until they have done so and the car behind them should allow the space between them to re-establish to the 2 or 3 second rule. (The number of seconds seem to be different in various juisdictions.)

    • Hello Russ – thanks for your message. We note your observations, regarding the graphic – we are working with limited space and wanted to convey the zipper aspect first and foremost. The 2-3 second rule is a great one and needs reinforcement. We have added this rule/tip to our content schedule. Thanks again and safe travels!

  3. it is good in concept but frustrating when you are in the line up heading North into the tunnel at rush hour and you more into the left lane as instructed by the signals only to be cut off by drivers racing up the blocked lane to cut in/not merge, force their way into the line!

  4. Hello,

    I’m curious about the rules on entering (merging) onto highway. I’ve seen some cars cross the gore area in order to get ahead of other cars which are also trying to get onto highway.
    Is this allowed in BC? I tried look up about this but cannot find the definite answer.

  5. I had an RCMP officer actually tell me that the person merging has the right of way and that if you have a collision with a vehicle while trying to get onto a highway merging that the person on the highway will be ticketed for not letting a merging driver in

    • Hi Cynthia – thanks for your comment. We can’t comment on what the RCMP say as that falls within their jurisdiction, however, we understand the act of merging to be a shared responsibility – kind of like a dance – where each driver anticipates the movements of traffic and adjusts their speed accordingly. Compromise. 🙂

      • The law is pretty clear, you do not have the right to merge, you must make the merge only if you can fit and do it safely. So if someone doesn’t let you in and you go in anyway and cause an accident, it’s clear that you are at fault. I checked into it. This Zipper merge method shown works when everyone is going slow and doing things properly. In real life, it doesn’t work at all. You should not merge at the very end because if the other driver doesn’t let you in, you’re now traveling at enough speed you can’t stop in time, adjust your speed up or down in enough time to execute a merge behind that driver. This is of course assuming a high speed merge.. In bumper to bumper traffic, it’s a completely different situation.

  6. You are banking on motorists being courteous and history has shown that this is rare. Good luck with the bottlenecks at the taper. How about teach people to start merging after the 1st lane drop sign and not racing to the taper to get in front?

    • Thanks for your comment Kevin. Any point leading up to the end of the lane is an allowable point of entrance to the lane beside it. The ICBC Drive Smart manual advises that drivers in the lane ending enter into the next lane when it is safe to do so.

      “If you’re driving in a lane that ends ahead, you need to change lanes. Adjust your speed, keeping within the speed limit, and wait for a safe gap in the other lane. If you are driving next to a lane that ends ahead, help the merging traffic by adjusting your speed or changing lanes.”

      If we work together, we will all get where we need to go. 🙂

      Here’s a link to the ICBC manual, which is the source of driver education in the province, for your reference.

    • When drivers randomly merge into the through lane at a bottleneck such as highway maintenance or MVA they slow and at times stop the through lane for approaching drivers.
      The volume doesn’t change to the choke point but early merge is clearing the way for people to advance to the zipper merge zone.
      Trusting you understand that by merging ahead of the zipper merge zone you advance some vehicles arbitrarily and slow some.
      Early merge is inconsiderate.
      Zipper merge is fair and the most expedited way to effect the maneuver.

    • It is this kind of thinking that causes problems. The designers make the acceleration lane long enough to allow the car to obtain sufficient speed to enter at the merge point. You can do so if it is safe along the lane where the dashed line is but not where it is solid. One of the worst thing to do is slow down or worse ..stop in the acceleration lane.

  7. I was on a 2 lane highway and trying to pass a semi. We came up to a merge lane (one of the ones that lead out from courtney) and there was a car that was trying to come in. I do not believe that the trucker checked his mirrors as I know with absolute certainty that I was not in a blind spot. In a situation like this who has the right of way? The truck was infront of the car and if I had not laid on the horn I would have been dead along with my best friend because the trucker trying to move over to be “polite”. When I went through my learners and everything I seem to remember that the merger has the duty to merge safely and if they run out of room they have to stop at the end and wait for an opportunity to merge later. Is that correct?

    • Hi Rebecca,

      Thanks for your comment. We aren’t entirely clear on the situation you describe above but we can confirm that, according to ICBC and the BC MVA, drivers merging into a lane must do so only when it is safe to do so. Vehicles merging onto a highway should accelerate or decelerate to merge safely. Common courtesy of drivers already on the road, is to move into the travelling lane (if it is safe to do so) or decelerate to allow the traffic coming on to the highway to do so safely. Stopping at the end of a merge point is discouraged but might be necessary if each of the above points was unable to occur. Make sense? Let us know if you have any other questions.

  8. Hi tranbc,
    Studying the Traffic act and comparing it with ICBC Driving guide, as well tranbc advise , I see, as you probably know there are many uncovered areas.
    Traffic act is in the end the final judging act, not ICBC Driving guide neither tranbc advice.
    I’d like to know what legal organism decides to amend and bring the new necessary changes to keep up with increasing traffic.
    As example, – signalling the intension not the turning of the steering wheel, imposed at 50m in many other countries, safe distance mentioned explicitly as 50m for most situations as staying back while passed or on merging lanes, right of way specifically mentioned for a vehicle which is ahead on another lane, on left on right when merging.
    And by the way, 50 years ago when I studied for my driver license the “zipper merging “ was one of the “Driving law” / “Traffic act” in many countries, sorry, no offence.
    Lee Bernard

    • Hello Lee,

      We, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure are responsible for creating the legislation found in the BC Motor Vehicle Act. Changes and updates are regularly made to the Act, in order to keep it up to date.

  9. WOW, Hello transbceditor, I’m surprised by the comments here, but expected way more!
    Took me a while to find this site, I’m hoping for answers!
    A while ago driving north on 97, towards the airport, from Kelowna, the hwy changes from three lanes to two lanes after an intersection with Sexsmith rd.
    There is a sign of merging and the speed limit is 80, the same as before of the lights. There was not much traffic. Light was red, I started almost the same time with the vehicle on left. Past intersection I needed to merge, so after my signalling the vehicle on left recognized it, slowed down some, so I intended to change lanes. By that time I was still ahead of the vehicle on left but not safe distance to change lanes, next, the vehicle accelerated, I’d say quite fast, so I had to slam the brakes and let that vehicle go. I realized that al the time the centre left lane was empty, without any traffic.
    I drive for almost 30 years and always by ICBC’s Driving Instructions with no accidents nor tickets. Will anyone be capable to judge this situation and let me know what is th right way?

    • Hi Gerry – unfortunately – without having been there to see the incident unfold, we are not in a position to state who is in the wrong or in the right.
      Drivers in the lane which is ending should anticipate merging well in advance of the final warning sign, to give themselves the best opportunity to do so. Drivers travelling in the lane which is being merged into should anticipate drivers merging and move over whenever possible.

  10. My question is very simply: Who has the right of way on Highway 1? Is it the traffic on the freeway? Or is it those trying to merge?

    Yes, I understand the zipper merge, the efficiency of moving from the right to the left lanes to allow for merging onto the freeway. That’s not my question.

    Even simple common sense should dictate that those merging onto the highway should only do so when it is safe, however, common sense is not always enough.

    I have been trying to get a straight-up answer to this question for quite some time. I hope you can answer this for me.

    • Thanks for the question. Traffic merging onto the highway is responsible for adjusting speed in order to safely change lanes into an open space. That said, drivers in the travel lane should be courteous and either adjust speed or move to another lane to help provide space for merging traffic, if safe to do so.

  11. Hello tranbceditor. I agree and appreciate your answers. Related to merging I have your $1 mil question. Here is the scenario: Double hwy, 80 km speed limit, deserted, meaning just two vehicles. I’m driving on merging lane, aprox 40 to 50 ft ahea of another vehicle on the right lane, aprox 8 to 10 km faster. I signal intension of merging. The other vehicle gives me one or two seconds and accelerates, matching my speed. I change lanes from merging in the right lane, at aprox 87 km/h and start to slow down. The vehicle, now behind me, accelerates closing in, up to aprox 100 km/h. I see in the mirror and threatened I accelerate to aprox 95 km/h. Seems like fun, doesn’t it!? Now, here is the clue to the question for you. In the end of accelerating, the vehicle behind reached 109km/h, did not change lanes , on a very empty left lane, instead turned his red/blue lights on and during the stop mentioned twice that being generous will not impound my vehicle because didn’t believe I was street racing. Besides making me feel as little as a bug with borderline prejudice.
    There is something you are very wrong, sorry! The ICBC Drive Safe Guide is considered “JUNK” in the Traffic Court. I have a second hearing in November.

      • Hello again tranbceditor,

        Thank you for your answer. To me it means more than it’s written. Of course you understood the situation and can not comment being in an impossibly awkward position.
        If the situation would be reversed I believe without exaggeration I would be accused of 1: accelerating from a back position during lane change of another vehicle, 2: obstructing driving during another’s vehicle merging, 3: aggressive driving , 4: at least another two counts covered by the “Charter of Rights “
        In other words I would probably be trialed and jailed.

        Now, constructively speaking, the driving guide published by ICBC has a larger and more detailed coverage than the “Traffic Act”. Seems to me that the uncovered parts create loopholes easily used to create only one sided decisions. So, either the Traffic Act needs an immediate review or the Driving guide be credited as valid until the problem is solved.

        Thank you for your wishes. But how is that makes me feel?

      • Hello tranbceditor,
        Last couple of days I read every single line of the Traffic Act. There are several PAGES of “Power to make regulations” for some organism.
        There is a clear art. 211 which allows ICBC to establish forms carrying out powers, duties and functions.
        There are many explanations about speed monitoring devices.
        There is a short 157.2 B paragraph mentioning of not speeding while being passed, another short one 195.2 about obstructing another driver and one 162.1 of follow too close.
        The single and only specific is 162.2 of not following within 60 m, that means 196.85 ft. !!!!
        There are signs on roads advising to “keep safe distance “
        The site of the Minister of Transportation of BC is promoting and explaining the safe, logic and long time used over the world, way of merging, as the ICBC Driving guide explains it as well.
        On June 12, 2018, you answered to Pure Excellence the answer I’d expected, the bus had the right of way.
        I drive for 50 years, trained many, drove government officials, have years of technical QC test driving, required to participate in traffic accident investigations, almost 2 mil km driven all over Europe, over half mil in Canada and US. It is a habit for me to review the driving rules of a new place.
        The zipper rule promoted is the obvious one, it is unfortunately only “recommended “ . As long as it is not enforced legally, the so called “entitled” drivers will arrogantly push their way. Roads are not for competition, not for show of power under the hood, not for show of power of job or position or bank account, roads are in the end the only place where we don’t know each other and function by the same requirements.
        The missing specifics of merging create a clear problem, in my opinion this should be clearly addressed in the Traffic Act yesterday not next year.
        Already people were breathalyzed just because they came out of a Liquor Store, hope you are aware and many other similar situations.
        Please take this as a plea, for many people who pay ticket after ticket only because they are busy with their lives and don’t have the time or maybe the understanding of how to research or maybe the experience to understand.
        I trust you have the means or at least you know which direction this plea from the heart should be directed.

        Thank you

    • You were in the wrong for going 87 in an 80 in the first place. You were in the wrong for speeding up even more when someone was an aggressor. The correct answer is to move out of their way while maintaining the speed limit. If you had done so, you would not have been pulled over. Hope this helps! Good luck on your ticket.

      • Hello, Spec,
        I’m not offended by your superficial comment.
        Obviously you have a very short driving experience.
        I just hope you have a large enough Bank account to help you when you’ll have an accident you COULD avoid by simply accelerating!
        Good luck.

  12. ok so i slow down as i’m in the right lane (slow lane)on the highway the on ramp is suppose to merge as per sign your saying i have to make room, the merge traffic is now at the end of the merge lane doing 80 kms approx which is about 3 times the speed of the traffic currently on the highway i have to hammer my brakes and stop so the merging car doesn’t hit me but now i have been rear ended who’s at fault ? the sign says no stopping on the highway so i’m at fault for stopping because dimwit merging is going way faster than the speed on the highway and cuts me off ? or is the person behind me for rear ending me ? or dimwit who’s not matching the speed on the highway and accelerating to pass traffic ?

    • Hi William,

      Thanks for your question about slowing down on the highway when another vehicle merges into your lane, and who would be at fault if you were rear-ended.

      This organization is not responsible for enforcement/insurance matters, so you may wish to contact ICBC directly for further information as to who would be at fault.

      Vehicles are required to follow at a safe distance, to allow for vehicles ahead that may slow down. Drivers must also be observing what’s ahead, including a merge which may slow traffic in front of them.

  13. Interesting dialogue, what is missing or under emphasized, is the nessesity of drivers in the adjacent lane, be it right or left, to yeald rightaway to the veichle attempting to merge. With a single veichle it’s not much of a challenge, however when one is driving a 20′ van pulling a 20′ foot camping trailer (with turn signals flashing!) it becomes a challenge in which one often has to “create a hazard” to force their way into the active lane.

  14. Hello,
    I have a question about merging across multiple lanes. Is it legal to merge across three lanes diagonally? If not, how does one legally merger across 3 lanes?

    • Hi Marina,

      We are a little confused by your use of the term merge. Merge signs are posted when traffic is required to condense from two lanes to one, in which case one car from each lane takes turns merging to form a single line. We wonder if you are referring to cars crossing over multiple lanes of moving traffic? If there are no other cars restricting you from doing so, and you signal each time you move from one lane to the other, you can move in this way across multiple lanes of traffic. Make sense? Let us know if you meant something else, or if you have any other questions.

  15. Hi,
    It’s quite difficult to explain this situation, so I’ll try my best. I was on the bus yesterday, and there was this situation: the lane the bus wanted to merge into was a merge lane leading to a highway. There were two vehicles that were in the merge lane leading to the highway in this exact order: a van and a car. The bus is 40 ft, and the bus was about 30 ft ahead of the van, and the remaining 10 feet of the bus was beside the van. The bus continued to merge in front of the van, forcing the rather reluctant van to let him in. Is this the way the merge should work? Should the van driver let the bus in without reluctance? Should the bus driver let the van go ahead and merge between the van and the car? Who had the right of way?

    • Hi there Pure Excellence,

      From your description, it sounds like the bus was in front of the van at the merge point and therefore had the priority. It is the responsibility of drivers to alternate while merging, and this responsibility is shared between the freeway traffic and the traffic in the merge lane. If at all possible, drivers travelling in the right freeway lane should move into the left, or passing lane, in order to free up room to allow merging traffic to enter the freeway. Thanks for connecting with us here – we hope that this helped to answer your question.

  16. Many times, I have used my indicators and tried to exit a highway, only to find a car entering the highway assuming they have right of way, forcing an exiting car to find a gap to get off the highway. This is dangerous as it has a domino affect to cars continuing on the highway by them having to slow down all because the car entering the highway is using the “Zipper merge” idea in the wrong context. In most countries, cars on the highway and those trying to get off the highway, have priotity/right of way and the car entering needs to allow exiting cars to exit first. Please confirm. Thank you.

    • Hi Tim,

      We admit, we were a bit perplexed by your question. Most highway exits in BC are of the right turn exit and on ramp variety, which means that the scenario you described above shouldn’t happen. A driver wanting to exit a highway should not normally be impeded by traffic wishing to enter the highway. They should be able to signal and move over into a right hand exit lane and leave the highway. We can think of one scenario on BC highway 1 in Victoria near Helmcken where there is a stretch of highway (two lanes) which acts as both an off ramp and off ramp. The zipper merge idea would not apply in this situation as there are two lanes moving simultaneously side by side without termination of one lane ahead. It is expected that drivers entering and exiting the highway at this point will work collectively to allow movement as required. Hope that this helps. If you have a certain stretch of road in mind, let us know and we would be happy to look into it for you.

      • Another example of a traffic lane that serves as both on ramp and off ramp can be found in Kamloops at the junction of Highway 1 and Highway 5 just west of the Valleyview stretch of Highway 1. Although I have never measured the length of this dual purpose merge lane, it is very short. Drivers coming out of Kamloops intending to go west on Highway 1 are travelling much slower than the 80 or 90 kilometre per hour speed limit on Highway 1 (there is also a change of speed limit on Highway 1 at about this point) and drivers exiting Highway 1 have to slow to 40 to make the bend leading to the Highway 5 northbound acceleration lane. It’s not pretty and things really depend upon drivers exercising good judgment, patience, restraint and courage.

  17. Most drivers when seeing a merge sign move as soon as they are able, which fills up the left lane at lights. Other drivers stay in the right lane and expect to be let in where the lanes narrow to one. A zipper sign would let drivers know to stay in their lane until the road narrows and smoothly zipper together. The main problem is the merge sign needs to be changed to a zipper ahead sign.

    • Hi John,

      We have installed zipper merge signs at locations across the province where merging is proving challenging for some drivers. It certainly is a helpful image to keep in mind when you are required to merge – both in the merge lane and in the lane required to accept those merging vehicles!

      • It would be great to see more zipper signs – especially at construction sites.

        I’m a zipper fan/advocate but am losing my will as I get the finger from folks who think I’m cutting the line.

        I’ll reach out to City of Vancouver to see if they can require this type of signage at construction merges.

        A BC-wide public education campaign would be useful.

        • Sounds good Fear of Zippering,

          We promote our zipper graphic and content regularly via our social media platforms on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram as well. Safe travels.

  18. Hello, I would like TransBC to verify the laws and adjust this artificial accordingly. I find that it is stating what would be ideal driving practice rather then what is law. Unfortunately we need to drive according to the Law rather then what may be ideal. This causes problems with people who drive according to the law and those who think its OK to drive most efficiently for themselves. First your picture shows a “Right Lane Ending” sign not a merge or zipper merge. Secondly the car that is pulling into the left lane is making the lane change after the lane ends. According to the Motor Vehicle Act at the end of the ending lane where there is no broken line in the middle, the road is considered to have one lane. By this time, all vehicles should already be in a single file. As you can see this article is somewhat misleading and if young drivers would follow the example above they would be breaking the law.

      • Hello thanks for your Question.

        The Motor Vehicle act states in section 119(1) Laned Roadway means a roadway or the part of a roadway that is divided into 2 or more marked lanes for the movement of vehicular traffic in the same direction. Thus once a marked line has ended is it to be considered a single lane.

        When your lane is ending you must “change lanes” into the left lane, Adjust your speed, keeping within the speed limit, and wait for a safe gap in the other lane. (Page 55 ICBC Learn to Drive Handbook) and then we look back to 151(a) where it states you must ensure the lane change can be made with safety and will in no way affect the travel of another vehicle.

        I will also add that it’s also illegal under the Motor Vehicle Act for a vehicle to pass another on the right on a single roadway. (Section 158(1) ) Pushing these lane merges until the last second as shown in the article causes this to happen. We see all the time in our daily commutes from the people who fly down that right lane past everyone who has followed the law and merged.

        We need to follow the laws laid out by the MVA and ICBC. All drives on the road should already know these laws as we were all tested with these laws in place. Unfortunately this article contradicts our own laws and only confuses people who are unsure.

        • Hi Chris,

          Our zipper drawing shows the best way to merge during heavy congestion (the blog post differentiates between merging in congested and free-flowing scenarios). A zipper merge at a merge point creates an environment where vehicles alternate, which makes the transition from two lanes to one more efficient. You have likely experienced erratic merging during heavy traffic where some vehicles let no one merge ahead, while others allow a stream of vehicles to merge ahead. This leads to an inefficient merge and driver frustration.

          The intent of BC Acts and Regulations is to provide the rules of the road, not to teach how to drive. BC laws are not written in such detail that every nuance about how to drive on a road is dealt with in law. As a result, experience and education plays a significant role in how to drive and safe highway operations. Laws are generally written for ideal conditions; as such, not all items are discussed in law. For example, freeways have a maximum and minimum posted speed. If the freeway becomes blocked, and you do zero speed, that does not mean you are in violation of the Motor Vehicle Act because you are not driving the minimum speed (that is why Section 144 exists in law: no careless driving allowed).

          Hope this helps clarify the blog post. In order to reinforce that the zipper graphic refers to congested periods, we have added a caption specifying that.

          • When the situation arises that there is construction or an illegally parked vehicle on the right that forces drivers to merge left. Where is the merge point? Sometimes if traffic is heavy, if everyone would only travel in the left lane and the right lane is empty, the left lane could be blocks long. Is it more efficient for vehicles to proceed in both lanes to the obstruction and then merge?

            Also, where in the act does it state which lane is ending. As in my previous comment, the merge sign seems to show the left lane ending and the right lane continuing in the path of the left lane. If that is the case, would the right lane then have right of way or at least there should be the zipper merge?

          • In the case of an illegally parked vehicle (or some other situation where signage wasn’t present to inform drivers they could no longer use the lane) a zipper merge at the obstruction/lane’s end would be the most efficient approach, especially if traffic is heavy.

            Signage is chosen and installed to suit the circumstances – not all signs are prescribed by the Motor Vehicle Act for every situation. The intent of the BC Motor Vehicle Act and BC Motor Vehicle Act Regulations are to provide the rules of the road, not to teach how to drive. BC laws are not written in such detail that every nuance about how to drive on a road is dealt with. As a result, experience and education play a significant role in how to drive and safely. Laws are generally written for ideal conditions, and not all situations can be discussed in law.

            The “right lane ends” sign pictured in the blog is consistent with signs used throughout Canada and the US. The intent of signs are to convey a simple visual message to drivers. The right lane ends sign symbolizes both lanes as solid lines, with the right lane ending, and the requirement for traffic there, to move into the left lane. (The dotted line on the sign represents the lane markings dividing the two lanes). In this circumstance, drivers in the left lane would technically have the right of way, as they are continuing on as they have been. However, Section 144 of the BC Motor Vehicle Act states that drivers must drive with due care and attention with reasonable consideration for all other persons using the highway. Typical driving etiquette would have motorists in the left lane doing the zipper merge by allowing traffic from the right lane to move into the left lane, on an alternating basis.

        • I am looking at the yellow merge sign and it shows the left lane as a dotted lane and the right lane as a solid lane. To me, it looks like the LEFT lane is ending and the right LANE is moving to the left, which makes sense.

          • Hi Chris,

            The dotted line is meant to represent the lane markings dividing the two lanes. When looked at this way, it represents what’s seen in the diagram — that the RIGHT LANE is ending and traffic therefore merges into the LEFT lane.

  19. Hello, I was wanting to know why in the rain I cannot see the lines on the roads very well if not at all. I’m a 30 year driver and was told by ICBC to ask you.

    • Thanks for connecting with us here. Environment Canada regulations limiting the use of VOC alkyd (traditional) style paint came into effect September 2009 and those regulations applied to everyone in Canada, including BC.

      Weather and climatic conditions play a large role in line marking durability. Our wet coastal rain and snow, combined with high traffic volumes and the curved landscape our highways follow all wear down our line markings. Climate during paint application also plays a significant role in its staying power; any paint application holds better when applied after a long hot dry spell. If waited for those conditions in BC we would risk cutting our re-painting season to 30% of what it currently is.

      The safety of the travelling public is our absolute priority and we continue to look for ways to improve line markings in BC. We are working with other jurisdictions to find better ways to maintain our roads and road markings and have invested in research to find more effective line marking materials for high humidity environments such as ours here in BC. In regards to your concern, is there somewhere specifically you are concerned about? We will share your concern forward with the local area manager for review.

      Hope that this helps answer your questions.
      Here’s a link to more information:

  20. I have a concern/question. I was pulled over by a police officer for accelerating while trying to merge into the right lane. There were no openings in the right lane near me and so I accelerated up a few cars to get to a spot a head. Yes I did end up going 30 kms over the limit but it was in need to get off the highway and to merge safely in to the right lane and then move off the highway via the next exit. Can I dispute the charge or am I paying the bill? Any advice would be helpful.

    • Hi Natalie,

      Unfortunately, we are not in a position to comment on this scenario. While we are responsible for creating the laws in effect on BC Highways, the BC RCMP are responsible for enforcing those laws. We can say that (and this is in line with our Keep Right – Let Others Pass legislation) if you practice travelling primarily in the right lane while on the highway instead of the left, you would be in an better position to make a quick exit if you needed to. Hope that this helps!


    Your definition of how a motor vehicle enters via an on-ramp and “Merge” with highway traffic must be peculiar to BC (only). In any other jurisdiction, in which I have driven, the responsibility to merge rests solely upon the driver entering from the on-ramp (see this website as an example, in particular point #2):

    I have always believed that a highway is meant to provide an orderly, forward flow of traffic. Vehicles entering via an on-ramp should merge, as traffic permits; without impeding the forward flow of existing highway traffic.

    With the method of “Merging”, presently in place in BC. every time a highway traveller reaches an on-ramp, they are expected to either slow down, speed up or move into the passing lane (during a trip, you can multiply this situation by the number of on-ramps that will be encountered: 10, 20, 30 or ??). Any driver who increases or decreases speed directly affects all of the vehicles behind them and their orderly forward flow is affected. Moving into the passing lane carries its own concerns, as many times, that lane is already occupied.

    Many on-coming drivers expect your vehicle to make make way for them via one of these aforementioned changes; so that they can enter the highway. Woe betide any highway driver who thinks that the on-coming driver will adjust their speed to allow for an orderly access to the highway.

    I’m sure that many accidents have been caused by these rules and, when BC drivers travel to other jurisdictions, they will not find the same “Merge” standard exist. Consequently, their safety could be in jeopardy. Consider a trip to Seattle, Los Angeles, Toronto or any other large metropolis.

    I would strongly urge your department to review the steps put forward in the above attachment and bring our highway rules in-line other jurisdiction within North America.

    • Hello again Ted,

      BC drivers are trained and licensed by ICBC who outlines the rules of the road in their driver manual:

      In this guide, merging is explained this way : “If you’re driving in a lane that ends ahead, you need to change
      lanes. Adjust your speed, keeping within the speed limit, and wait for a safe gap in the other lane.”

      It also says: “When you are driving in the right lane of a freeway, other drivers may try to merge from an entrance lane. It’s not always easy for them to find a safe gap. Use these pointers to help them merge safely:
      pull over into the left lane (if it’s safe) to give them room to merge onto the freeway
      adjust your speed to allow a large enough gap for them to move safely into.”

      So, as in all driving, be it in the U.S. or Canada, merging requires all drivers to be aware of surrounding traffic and make adjustments to allow for the zipper like merging required. Many other areas across the U.S. encourage the zipper merge to allow the forward flow of traffic. (

      • In our area, we have way too many right lanes that end abruptly but people still line up in them and then all that traffic begins pushing into the left through-lane. The operative word in the ICBC guide explanation is “wait”, as in “If you are driving in a lane that ends ahead, you need to change lanes, adjust your speed to keep within the speed limit, and “WAIT” for a safe gap in the other lane.” Yes it also says, that the through- laners should be aware and try to accommodate the mergers, but to stop to let them in is really what the mergers expect. I have seen them try to force the left through-lane traffic to stop…..and it is in this situation that you have created the problem. I have yet to see a right lane merger stop and wait for a gap in traffic. There needs to be explicit signs and more explicit driving rules. Let’s make sure the new drivers know the rules. Zipper merging is great when you have two long lines of very slow moving traffic with another lane merging into the through-lane, but this will not work when the slow merging lane is trying to merge into the fast moving through-lane. This where WAIT becomes the operative word.

        • Hello and thank you for your comment. We spoke with our traffic engineers about your comment and here is what they had to say. Hope this helps!

          The example in our blog is for rural or freeway type merging where you match the speed of traffic and enter. Typically there is an adjacent fast lane where drivers can be courteous and move over to allow the merge to happen safely. This happens on Lane drops (end of a passing or climbing lane) as well as in an entrance ramp. Also, this is the condition described in Learning to Drive Smart which you quoted.

          In the urban environment, drivers who are using the right turn only lane as a thru lane for as long as possible are doing two things wrong, both of which are clearly signed. First there will be an overhead or shoulder mount R-082 Lane Control sign (which is regulatory and enforceable) showing that the lane is for right turn movements only. Secondly, for some distance upstream of the intersection the right turn lane will be marked with a solid white line. Section 151 of the Motor Vehicle Act, Driving on laned roadway, prohibits the changing from one lane to another lane if the “action necessitates crossing a solid line”. Therefore, a driver who decides to decides to late merge out of a right turn lane is contradicting two traffic control devices. The correct movement for that driver is to complete the right turn and find a safe route back to their direction of choice.

          Courtesy should be exercised for the driver in the through lane who is presented with a vehicle pushing into their lane. Right of way is something that is given, not taken, on a roadway and this leads to courteous and safe driving. However, as quoted from Chapter 4 of Learn to Drive Smart, “you can’t always count on the other person to follow the rules. And even if you have the right-of-way, it’s still your responsibility to do all you can to avoid a crash.”

  22. Hi there,

    Good news on the “Merge Like a Zipper” signs. Our traffic engineering department has confirmed that the intent is to use this sign around the province to 1) provide good information on driving practices, and 2) in locations where merging has shown to be an issue.

    Estimated launch of this initiative is early summer. Hope this helps!