Once you get on the highway, you’ve eventually got to exit.
Sounds easy, but that’s not always the case in the Charlotte area. Many highway exit ramps are also busy on-ramps for a well-traveled connecting road. Weaving at these interchanges can test your defensive-driving skills, especially during rush hour.
Just when you start to move to the right at a cloverleaf-style off-ramp, someone else is getting positioned to merge left into your lane, to enter the highway you’re leaving.
Steve Marcus of Charlotte asks, when both vehicles arrive at nearly the same time, who goes first? He has two often harrowing locations in mind that might be familiar to you:
▪ Heading west toward Charlotte on East Fourth Street to enter Interstate 277 north, there is a single lane on the right side of Fourth Street entering the I-277 north ramp. Meanwhile, two lanes are leaving I-277 north for Independence Boulevard.
“Who has the right-of-way?” Marcus wrote. “There are no yield signs.”
▪ Heading south on I-277 to take Exit 2 for East Third Street, a driver has to cross two lanes of traffic that are entering I-277 south.
“Maybe it’s my fault and others’ for not knowing the law,” Marcus wrote. “However, it just seems wrong that the 2 lanes of traffic (entering I-277 south) take (precedence).”
Here’s the answer on merging: Don’t get yourself into a mess moving into someone else’s lane. (That’s according to GS 20-146, section d1.)
“The person in the act of merging has to make sure it can be done safely,” said Sgt. Mike Baker, spokesman for the N.C. Highway Patrol.
So a driver has the right-of-way in the lane that he or she occupies. Even then, make allowances to keep a safe distance from the cars ahead of you.
“If you’re driving down the highway and you see a person merging into your lane, you’re supposed to slow down and allow that person to merge,” Baker said.
Chapter 4 of the N.C. Driver’s Handbook includes a diagram that outlines proper techniques for merging. The diagram includes accepted “merging areas” for leaving and entering the highway.
When exiting, merge right away, at the beginning of the off-ramp’s deceleration area rather than closer to the end. When entering the highway, wait to merge as the acceleration lane runs out.
Sometimes deciding who is at fault falls to the courts. Investigators could present evidence to show who made the first move to merge, an indication the second driver probably should yield, Baker said.
Markings on the highway and testimony from independent witnesses also could be considered, Baker said. Sometimes, both drivers could be at fault.
In the end, decisions on merging often should take into account more than right of way, Baker said.
“I think it boils down to common sense,” he said.
Karen Sullivan: 704-358-5532, @Sullivan_kms