You’re Doing it Wrong – Vol. 2- On Ramps


Here’s another entry in a series of driving failures that annoy us and probably frustrate you as well. In the first part I wrote about <a title="You’re Doing It Wrong – Vol.1 – Roundabouts" href="http://everydaydriver.com/awarnings/youre-doing-it-wrong-vol-1-roundabouts/">Roundabouts</a>, and now I want to tackle the other common source of confusion: Freeway On-Ramps.

I’m not sure when an on-ramp became a source of confusion, but I see evidence nearly every day. Many cars enter freeways well below the speed of traffic. The idea of merging seems to mean cutting in front of a faster moving car and believing you have the right of way. Sudden braking and dodging slower cars turns on-and-off-ramp combinations into clogged lanes of dying salmon.

Like the roundabout, the on-ramp is a lingering piece of driver nirvana ruined by poor drivers. You may have noticed most on-ramps don’t have a posted speed limit between the street you turned off of and the freeway itself. Add to this the fact many on-ramps spring from stoplights and it creates the chance to test a <a title="Horsepower Corrupts" href="http://everydaydriver.com/awarnings/horsepower-corrupts/" target="_blank">0-60 sprint</a> in the real world.

Yet it seems many drivers believe a clear on-ramp should be approached with caution. They apply gradual throttle to reach speeds of maybe 50 by the time they get alongside freeway traffic. At this stage, a merge is much more like a brake-check maneuver as the slower car forces its way into the moving stream of vehicles.

Merging should be a fluid thing, like a dance or perfect dive. It’s far easier to blend into traffic or between two cars when your speed is the same or faster than others. Few cars have the power required to suddenly accelerate into a hole but most have enough braking to slow into the stream.

On-ramps are for proper merging and a good merge shouldn’t be disruptive. If you enter a fast moving freeway and other cars must brake or change lanes to let you in, <em>you did it wrong</em>.

Clear on-ramps are gifts from the driving gods. It’s a special world where you can mash the gas to the floor until you navigate a hole in traffic. I have a favorite ramp where I’ve learned the proper line for the banked curve and where to drop the hammer. It makes me smile every time.

The Awarning is this: if you are the roadblock then learn to merge from a place of strength instead of fear. If you’re someone that loves a good on-ramp and merges like a precision driver, then pass on your knowledge to those around you. I admit that might not go well, but the up-side is smoother traffic for all of us and the occasional moments when a “free-way” actually lives up to the name.


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