Merge In Turn

This seems to be some sort of mysterious rule that only some people know about, and those that do not (or do not understand it) continue on with their driving oblivious to the annoyance they cause to other road users.

The Highway Code has a few things to say about Merge In Turn.

Lane discipline: 134
You should follow the signs and road markings and get into the lane as directed. In congested road conditions do not change lanes unnecessarily. Merging in turn is recommended but only if safe and appropriate when vehicles are travelling at a very low speed, e.g. when approaching road works or a road traffic incident. It is not recommended at high speed.

In other words, when directed to do so, traffic should merge into the appropriate lane(s), in turn. Generally, one after the other. Like taking turns in a game. The same also applies in unusual situations such as in the approach to road works or accidents, which are generally signed to indicate as such.

Road Works: 288
Where lanes are restricted due to road works, merge in turn (see Rule 134)

Why Merge In Turn? Well, it smooths the flow of traffic at congestion points (arguably, the congestion points should be widened to eliminate them but that is a different matter). Traffic flowing in two (or more) lanes and merging when necessary will move more quickly, more safely and cause less of a tail back than traffic sitting queuing in one lane.

The signage may involve traditional road markings such as curved arrows as the lanes begin to narrow and merge into one from two (circled in red below):

In the case of roadworks or a blocked lane, the signs may be akin to the following:

Placed at various intervals on the approach to the closure, annotated with corresponding distances.

These may sometimes be preceded further up the road by signs indicating that the lanes merge or to Merge In Turn. They usually say something like “Lanes Merging” or “Merge In Turn” and if you are really lucky, they have a pretty little picture of some lanes joining together. So given the complicated nature of these signs, I can understand how they could be misunderstood.

Oh, wait. No. I can’t. It really is that simple. MERGE. IN. TURN.

Here is a list of ways describing how NOT to Merge In Turn:

  • Move over to the open lane or sit in the left hand lane as soon as possible MILES before they merge. Then spend the next few hours you are queuing glaring at those who understand how to perform a Merge In Turn manoeuvre who will obviously overtake and merge in you while you queue unnecessarily.
  • As above but get annoyed by all the people who understand how to Merge In Turn overtaking you so pull out and actually STRADDLE the two lanes blocking any traffic in either lane from progressing and merging correctly.
  • As point one but obstruct the flow of traffic by refusing to let those who overtook you merge in front of you even though they have followed the Highway Code and performed the manoeuvre correctly.

I’m sure there people have had similar experiences with the incompetence of other road users when it comes to Merge In Turn and the ones I listed above are just a few I have had the misfortune of experiencing.

So to those who do not know how to Merge In Turn (and if you disagree with any of what I have said in this post, you don’t know how to Merge In Turn) I urge you: Stop glaring at me, go down to your nearest book shop, buy a copy of the Highway Code and perhaps a dictionary in case any of the words are too complicated for you, and read. Read, learn and understand. When you’ve finished queuing, that is.

  1. I did have a counterpoint to this argument but in a different scenario, but I found I could not explain it accurately, so I bow down.

    • Mel
    • November 20th, 2013 5:23pm

    At last, something on the subject that makes sense! I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been glared at/hooted at for so doing, and even once the driver of an articulated lorry pulled out of the inside lane and tried to shove me into the centre barrier!

    This should be more widely understood.

    • Krzysztof
    • April 30th, 2014 6:54pm

    That’s a very good article. Describes correct behavior on the road which unfortunately most of Aberdonian drivers do not understand.

    • Jezza
    • August 14th, 2014 7:16am

    I used to sit in big long queues getting annoyed at other drivers going down the “free” lane, then I thought about it and could see the benifit of merging at the top of the roadworks at the merge points.
    Unfortunately there are still the majority if drivers who don’t understand the merge in turn concept and fall back on the good old British principle of “we must queue”.
    Recently I’ve had a driver waving out of his window at me suggesting I should get in his lane which was about a mile long as I was passing him, he then gave me the bird as I passed him. I stopped and let him catch up and asked him what his problem was and he said I should be in the queue with everyone else. I suggested he read the Highway Code!
    Yesterday I did the same and the cars at the head of the merge would not let me in with one 4×4 revving his engine and nudging forward.
    I’ve decided I’m going to print the high ode page so I can pass it to drivers when they moan!

    • Karen
    • March 7th, 2015 1:37pm

    Last year I had the misfortune of being hit by a Lithuanian lorry. The road was a junction where a dual carriageway with traffic lights merged into a single carriageway. He was on the inside lane I was on the outside. As we pulled away from the lights I was in front instead of slowing down to merge in turn he accelerated hit my back wing turned me around and pushed me 250yrs before stopping. He clearly had not seen my little VW Up in his left hand drive vehicle. However the insurance company of the courtesy car I was driving laid the blame with me saying that vehicles on the outside lane should always give way to those on the inside lane. Any comments?

    • Sounds like a very unfortunate incident – hopefully there were no injuries!

      It’s very difficult to pass judgement in a situation like this because it’s impossible to know what the lorry driver could or couldn’t see – probably the reason a lot of insurance claims end up going 50/50 without eye witnesses or camera footage.

      However, from what you say, it does sound like the lorry driver didn’t see you just ahead of him when the lanes started merging. That being the case, I find it surprising that the insurance company laid the blame with you considering that (generally speaking) most accidents which involve a 3rd party shunt from the rear result in the blame being placed on that 3rd party.

      I can’t say I’ve ever heard of anything that states a particular lane has priority when merging in turn but the markings on the road indicate which lane has priority. I.e. you usually see one of the lanes continue ahead and the merging lane will narrow as it goes on. This is usually the right hand (outer lane) but I have seen it reversed. I’d be inclined to check on Google Street View and see what the markings suggest is proper course of action.

    • Pete
    • November 4th, 2015 12:49am

    If we ALl followed the advice given everyone would stay in the right hand lane, leaving the left hand lane free for the queue-jumpers: Would THEY give way to traffic queuing in the right hand lane – in the way they assume they’ll be ‘let in” by vehicles they overtake in a left lane queue? I doubt it. But if these were queues at a supermarket checkout and somebody came “merging in turn” they’d be a lot more likely to get abuse – physical too, if they don’t back off and wait their turn. As for the idea that only merging at the point of constriction speeds up traffic flow, well that’s complete rubbish – it only speeds up the queue-jumpers at the expense of everyone else. Ignore the queue-jumpers and never let them infront of you – they hardly ever even use their indicators (because it would be an admission they need to be let in, and they want to fool you into thinking it’s their right to overtake you then cut in front of you and force you to brake for them.)

    • There are too many things wrong with this comment to even begin to discuss your inability to understand the concept of the merging in turn. So much so in fact, that I am almost entirely convinced this has to be a troll post. Nobody can be this ignorant, surely.