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.
DVSA Official 2015 Highway Code

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. 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.

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

  3. 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!

  4. 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?

    1. 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.

      1. The person in the lane has the right of way. You are only supposed to merge when it is safe to do so. It is the person who is merging who should insure that when they are merging it is safe to do so not the person you are looking to merge in front of. If you are joining a lane the person in the lane has the right of way. This is what I find confusing about merge points. You are supposed to take turn about, each car from the lane allows a car to merge and so on. but the car in the lane has right of way as you are only supposed to merge when safe to do so for both you and them. So if they are not allowing you to merge, not stopping, then it is not safe to merge. This in my view allows the driver who is in the lane to ignore the merging car and not allow them to merge. the car in the lane has the right of way and if an accident occurs then it will usually be the merging car which is blamed or responsible.

        1. Whilst not explicit, I think it would be contrary to the whole concept of merging in turn if the driver in that lane did not give way. I think the action of merging in turn implies equal right of way at the merge point regardless of lane – by definition, you are taking turns converging into a single lane. To ignore or block merging vehicles would be bad driving practice (e.g. you’d have to be quite close to the car in front) and actually quite selfish driving; I’d be surprised if given evidence showing such inconsiderate behaviour, the blame would be laid solely with the merging car. In any case, what would it achieve? You’d get one car ahead. Wow.

          1. I agree that following the Highway Code suggests a “zip merge” is appropriate, although it could be read as saying merge using zip method but as soon as it becomes obvious the lane is closing (or that you need to be in the inner lane to get where you want to go).

            But answering Leonard, I believe insurance companies always make the assumption that if you try to merge and then get clipped by someone refusing to let you in then you are responsible for the incident, not them. This happened to me when I realized I needed to be in the inner lane as I approached a roundabout. The traffic was going at about 5 mph in all lanes. I was not right on top of the roundabout. So I used my indicator and waited for someone to let me in. I am pretty sure what I was doing was correct driving technique. When a space opened up I moved in, only to find the car immediately behind in that lane sped up to prevent me entering. It was too late for me to manoeuvre back out so he scraped all down the side of my car. I gave all the facts to my insurance company but their response was very simple – “you were changing lanes, and therefore you are at fault!”. Since that incident I have always hesitated before moving lanes in a similar situation and usually wait for someone to make clear they are giving way, which is probably not very good for traffic flow, but there is no way I am going to do something that my insurer says will mean it is my fault if there is an accident!

            1. I always remember being taught that when performing any manoeuvre (be it changing lanes, reversing especially, parallel parking etc) you are considered ‘at risk’ because you are moving in a manner that is not in keeping with the ‘normal’ flow of traffic. Similarly, it is generally marked as a fault during a driving test for performing any action that negatively impacts other road users (e.g. causing them to brake because you left a junction or entered a roundabout late). I’m not sure how merging fits in here to be honest because it inherently involves two vehicles neither of which have a clear priority but it’s both driver’s responsibility to drive at what is considered an appropriate standard. It’s about giving way and letting the traffic flow appropriately, in turn.
              Your example of changing lanes however, is slightly different to a merge (in turn) point in that the lane markings are distinct rather than having merge arrows and no lane markers but I agree with the sentiment: people who speed up or drive bumper to bumper to stop others changing lanes/merging when required cause more problems and are a greater hazard than if they just let the traffic flow. It’s inconsiderate and rude driving behaviour if nothing else.
              If someone decides they want to be awkward about it and speed up to block you changing lane then they are clearly in the wrong IMO but unlike changing lane, I think it is a bit of grey area when considering merge points. A dash cam (or two!) would be extremely useful in these sorts of cases.

    2. Your fault. If you put your little VW in a position in which you can’t be seen, expect not to be seen! He didn’t run into you on purpose. If you are on the right hand side of a left hand drive truck, either get away quickly enough to appear in his line of sight when you get to the junction, or hold back and let him go ahead.

  5. 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.)

    1. 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.

  6. Completely agree with this article and a failure to understand how to merge is s serious problem in he UK. I do, however, have one common scenario of bad merging from the other side. This is where you back off to create the gap to allow the car in the closing lane to merge and the car(s) behind it accelerate hard to try and also squeeze in front. This, along with people not using both lanes and merging too early, causes inefficient traffic-flow, frustration and,potentially, collisions.

  7. Firstiwal, BIG Thanks! Now my confession:
    I’m a young Hgv driver, I drive 44t artics. Been driving as professional for 6 years. Only couple years ago I found out about “merge in turn” rule.

    I was the one, idiot you can call me. Who was playing a “Sheriff” on the road, blocking both lanes until I had to “merge in turn”, thinking very badly about all those drivers who try to snick in.
    I do admit I was wrong! And only because I self educate my self all the time I have soon found out. No one has ever told me I was wrong. This is the problem. We’re not being educated properly.

    Because I drive daily and observe the traffic. I understand how it smooths the traffic!

    Similar things are “middle lane hoging” or entering the “fast way” incorrectly. Too early, with slower speed than traffic. Or waiting for a long lorry to give you way, forgetting that you need to give way!!!

    I think whoever did this blog deserves the pint or two. And also needs to write a book! If you want my help we can do it together.

    There is a lot more to it! And EDUCATEING people will help soothen the traffic! Not putting more lanes or replacing hard shoulder which has caused already deaths to people!!!

    Stay safe folks and keep the traffic flowing!

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