‘Righty-merger’ still sits in center lane of controversy

The Durango “righty-merger” maneuver, described in this space a couple weeks ago, has made a U-turn, returning for a drive-by of additional commentary.

“Righty-merging” is when a driver pulls out from a side street perpendicular to Main Avenue and waits in the center lane to merge right.

The problem is, as police and several signs point out, the center lane is reserved for traffic turning left.

Nevertheless, the motoring public is revolting.

That’s true. But we better rephrase that as “the motoring public is upset.”

Because Action Line serves as the community steam-escape valve, here is an excerpt from some of the best vents – and scandalous confessions – from a congested Mea Culpa Mailbag.

“After reading your explanation on the center turn lanes, could you please educate readers on the proper use of the acceleration/deceleration lanes in La Plata County and the rest of the United States?” implores loyal reader “P.O.’d Cowboy.”

Cowboy describes his close encounter of the worst kind at the Walmart intersection.

“I was traveling with a trailer-load of cows southbound through the intersection when this rocket scientist pulled in front of my truck, completely ignoring the AC lane and the fact that I was there,” he writes.

“The pregnant cows were not impressed with my braking reflexes,” Cowboy lamented.

“Trucks with trailers, contrary to popular belief, cannot stop nearly as fast as most cars. There is a reason for the big gap between us and the car ahead. It’s called safe-stopping distance!” he correctly points out.

“Also, the deceleration (lane) is not a ‘passing’ lane. Please ask drivers to give us a little more courtesy to haul our horses, cattle, sheep or whatever.”

City slickers, you are hereby admonished.

Meanwhile, our good friend Bill Bowlby considers the center lane “my island of safety when trying to merge.”

Bowlby lives on the north edge of town at 36th Street. “Traffic southbound doesn’t see the Animas Drive light as anything more than a nuisance, so most vehicles travel above the posted 35 mph at the Hampton Inn,” he correctly points out.

“To make things doubly dicey, traffic northbound regards 32nd Street as the point ‘where the pavement ends and the West begins.’ Traffic going past Serious Texas (Bar-B-Q) already is pushing 45 mph. If the Animas light is green, it’s pedal to the metal!” Bowlby said.

“So, I pull into the center lane, stop, put my blinker on, and wait for a kind soul to let me merge. I know it’s against the law, and sometimes I have to travel to match the speed of traffic before I can merge. It’s insane!” Bill laments.

The righty-merger makes a good point: “It’s difficult to merge without using a portion of the left-hand turn lane because, simply put, you have to traverse three lanes of highway to reach your merge point. The timing has to be perfect. It rarely is.”

Our friend Eric Greene has an interesting perspective on righty-merging, especially because he was an instructor for AARP safe-driving course for 12 years. Eric would have law enforcement visit classes and answer questions.

“North Main was mentioned at times, and the State Patrol guy would tell us it was OK to use the center lane for merging,” he recalls.

And finally, imagine attending a 12-step meeting for traffic scofflaws.

“My name is Rob. I’m a ‘righty-merger.’ Now all in the room respond, ‘Hi Rob,’” quips our friend Rob Kolter. (Oops. We’re not supposed to use last names in this kind of meeting, are we?)

“My offenses go back nearly 40 years. I learned the ‘righty-merger’ technique in Driver’s Education. Yes, that’s right: Driver’s Education in Jefferson County Public Schools,” he confesses. “It allowed us to deal with one direction at a time without risking getting T-boned from the other lanes of traffic.”

“In fairness, I just checked the Colorado Driver’s Handbook, and it does say that the lane is reserved for left-turning vehicles,” he admits.

“Remember: Two wrongs don’t make a right, but three lefts do,” Rob wryly observes.

Email questions to actionline@durangoherald.com or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 80301. You can request anonymity if you remember that the ‘mph’ number on road signs might just refer to the IQ of the other people on the road.