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Merging in traffic: Who has the right of way when merging on to the freeway?

March 29, 2013 by Steven M. Gursten

Merging traffic etiquette – not Russian Roulette

Michigan merging law

Here’s the latest on my series on commonly misunderstood traffic laws. Last week, we tackled yielding laws…Merging just takes the yield a step further and you join the flow of traffic.

Merging can also be one of the scariest parts of driving a car. We’ve all been there. We’ve all been on both sides of merging: driving in the slow lane when another driver appears next to you in the merging lane and having to slow down or speed up to avoid having his car crash into yours; or trying to merge our cars onto the highway while other driver in the slow lane doesn’t seem to want to make room for you.

Insert favorite road rage scene (or flipping of bird) here.

Many drivers are not familiar with the proper and safe ways to merge. And yes, some drivers are just impolite and obnoxious. As a car accident lawyer for nearly 20 years, I’ve seen my share of serious car accidents caused by merging misunderstandings as well.

One common question (which is better to ask before the crash, rather than afterward) is:

Who has the right of way when merging onto the freeway?

Simply put, a driver merging onto a freeway must yield to traffic upon the freeway.

It must be noted that traffic on the freeway cannot intentionally block a driver from merging by either speeding up or slowing down.

According to  MCL 257.649(7):

A driver entering a roadway from a roadway that is intended for and constructed as a merging roadway, and is plainly marked at the intersection with the appropriate merge signs, shall yield the right-of-way to traffic upon the roadway that is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard and shall adjust their speed to enable them to merge safely with through traffic.

Safe merging everyone. And remember, it’s as simple as being aware of your surroundings and sharing the road safely.

And remember to drive defensively, even when you have the right of way.  Defensive driving is one of those “better to be safe than it is to be right and sorry” to think about for the next time you see a car coming up way too fast in the merge lane.

Related information:

What are the Michigan speed limit laws?


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