Disregarding new Utah law could cost $750

  • Published
  • By Adam Sandbek, 75th Air Base Wing Safety

HIIL AIR FORCE BASE – During one of our recent snowstorms, I was eastbound on SR-193, heading toward Highway 89. Traffic was backed up all the way to the Wal-Mart just off Church Street, at least a half-mile away from the intersection.  I figured there had to be an accident, or some other hazard causing everyone to jam into the left lane. 

I did the responsible, fair, kind, good-person, Utah thing and merged into the slow lane, knowing it would take at least 20 minutes to reach the intersection in accumulating snow conditions. Everyone else merged early and I didn’t want to be a jerk, so I just followed along.

As I neared the Layton Christian Academy, I realized the intersection was completely clear, and everyone was merging early to avoid a non-existent hazard. One of the two turn-lanes was closed due to construction, but there was easily another quarter-mile of clear road, with not one car on it. 

At that point I departed my lane and followed another vehicle all the way up to the merge point.  Someone let me in, but I could tell they didn’t want to.

I was aware of our state law regarding merging using the zipper method, and I knew that using both lanes to eliminate the back-up through two stoplights was a lot safer than early-merging.

Section 41-6a-903.1 of the Utah State Traffic Code went into effect on May 4, 2022.  It mandates using the zipper method of merging at any point where two congested traffic lanes merge into one lane. 

This method has been shown to reduce congestion by 40%, reduce accident severity, reduce road rage incidents, and improve traffic flow.

Zipper merging is a law in many states and over 30 states officially endorse it as safe driving behavior. In Utah, failure to use this merging method is actually an infraction and may result in a $750 fine.

With traffic influx and our never-ending construction cycle, we need to re-think how we see zipper merging and remember we’re all just trying to safely reach our destination. 

The next time you approach a congested merge point and someone passes you in the other lane, remember that zipper merging is safer and it’s the law in Utah.