Dear Northern VA (and DC for good measure) Drivers:
PLEASE LEARN HOW TO MERGE!
The next time I am stuck in merging traffic at 12:30am when I need to BE at work in less than 8 hours and am still 45 minutes from home, I am not going to be as nice as I was last night. I was the definition of a perfect driver* while in traffic in hopes of being the catalyst to get things moving smoothly. The way I see it, most merging problems can be deduced to one thing: improper following distance.
1. Leaving more than enough room between you and the car in front of you will reduce the likelihood of fender benders (which, of course, cause even more backups!) I keep, on average, 2-3 car lengths between myself and the vehicle in front of me and never have to slam on my brakes to avoid hitting someone. Yes, there are times I am closer to the next car, but that is usually when going a whopping 0mph.
2. By leaving a larger space in between you and the next car, lanes can merge more easily. Nothing angers me more than a line of cars at the end of a lane with their blinkers on and noone letting them in. Yes, they should have merged earlier, but let's give them the benefit of the doubt that they lack brain cells and just let them in the moving lanes of traffic.
3. Just.Let.The.Trucks.Merge. I know they're big and long and you can't see what's going on when they are in front of you, but they need to merge, too. And oftentimes, because their pickup speed is so slow, they are good for creating those gaps for you to slip over into when merging.
4. When you know it's three lanes merging into one and you've been sitting there for over 30 minutes in the middle of the night, please, for the love of Pete, take advantage of gaps in the traffic. For the life of me I can not understand why people will not take advantage of an obvious spaces I have left for them in the moving lanes.
5. Do not drive on the side of the road to escape the traffic unless you are a) giving birth, b) bleeding profusely, or c) going to run out of gas (I only add that one in because it's something I would be likely to do...but I still wouldn't BREAK THE LAW and drive on the shoulder.) Notice that I did not include "riding a motorcycle." Harley riders, stay in line. People who drive on the shoulders to escape traffic will either be caught by cops or Satan. Plus, every law-abiding driver hates you.
5. And most importantly, do not be in denial about having to merge. If the sign says, "Lanes Closed, Merge Right," they aren't joking and you need to, you know, MERGE TO THE RIGHT! Last night I was convinced some cars were being driven by cattle as the only thing that got them to alter their direction were bright orange cones literally forcing them into the next lane. Personally, I am smarter than a cow and do not need to be "herded" into the next lane. I did so myself soon after seeing the dreaded "Merge" sign.
*Except for checking my email on my phone, but hey, when you're going 0mph, I think it's ok.