Can merging off of or onto Highway 101 really be that hard? Based on some complaints lately by Road Warrior readers, it can be.

So to help, we went to some experts.

Roileen Miller of Miller Driving School in Cotati offers these tips:


–Traffic on the highway has the right of way.

–“When merging onto the freeway, you want to merge as close to traffic speed as possible.” So if traffic is moving at 65 mph, so should you. If it’s going only 30, so should you.

–Look before you merge. Be sure to glance over your shoulder before merging so that you can see if a car is in your blind spot. “Most drivers don’t turn their head and look,” and that’s what makes merging so dangerous, Miller says.

–If a car is trying to merge onto the highway, ease off the gas to create a spot for the car to enter.

–If a car on the onramp is going slow and you’re on the highway, change lanes if you can or accelerate to get ahead of that car if you can.

–If you’re following a car on the onramp, give yourself lots of room from it in case that driver slows down.

Miller says she teaches her students how to change lanes first so that when they practice merging it’s easy for them.

CHP Sgt. Jeff Abrams says that for the puzzle pieces of merging to fit together, drivers on the highway and those on onramps need to work together. He says it’s crucial for both drivers to be sure they’re following cars at a safe distance so that merges go trouble free.

And from the DMV driver’s handbook are these admonishments:

–Do not stop before merging into freeway traffic unless absolutely necessary.

–Don’t try to squeeze into a gap that’s too small. Leave yourself some room for safety.

–When exiting, signal for about five seconds before reaching the exit.

The Road Warrior adds:

–Be ready to exit when your offramp comes up. I’ve seen too many people cut across multiple lanes of traffic when they seem to suddenly realize their exit is at hand.


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  1. Pat Burnett

    I cant believe how many people when merging onto the freeway think that two objects can occupy the same place at the same time. The car on the freeway has the right of way but way too often these people just come in and drift right into my lane hoping I will accomodate their bad judgement. These people are present enough to look at me as if I have interrupted their day however. Wake up and drive your cars!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    September 7th, 2010 7:38 am

  2. sebtowne114

    “When merging onto the freeway, you want to merge as close to traffic speed as possible.” So if traffic is moving at 65 mph, so should you. If it’s going only 30, so should you.”

    Here is the fundamental problem of drivers around here on 101. Trying to merge going 30 into traffic doing 65 at near capacity of the road only causes everyone to jam on their brakes and cause a slowdown and backup.

    One person’s “conscious” effort to accelerate smoothly and slowly for the sake of fuel economy and environmental friendliness ultimately does the opposite. Countless vehicles then need to slow down and re-accelerate – burning copious amounts of fuel compared to one vehicle.

    Matching road speed = less fuel wasted, less slowdowns, less “fear” of merging being so difficult

    September 7th, 2010 7:41 am

  3. Ann Dubell

    You’re always quoting Miller Driving School. Give another school a chance to promote its business. How about Roadrunner Driving School. Leslie Allyn is articulate and knowledgeable. She’s also my wonderful sister….. Really, shine a light on another school.

    September 7th, 2010 8:09 am

  4. Paul

    “Traffic on the highway has the right of way.”

    Yes, this is true, but it’s also true that they can not assert that right to the point of causing an accident or forcing someone off the road.

    September 7th, 2010 8:27 am

  5. carrie

    Another problem is when a driver does not use the entire onramp to merge, they cross a solid white line and make a radical manuver to get into the traffic lane before those on the onramp in front of them. It would be helpful if Caltrans would put the fexible lane delineators along the solid line to force drivers to stay in the onramp lane until a proper merge could be done.

    September 7th, 2010 8:42 am

  6. 200 miles a day

    I’m a courier here in Sonoma County and I can’t count how many times I’ve been behind someone who will stop in the merging lane to wait for traffic to let them in! It happens way too often in Rohnert Park on the Commerce Blvd. northbound freeway onramp. Granted, that onramp is really short and the freeway traffic is moving relatively slow thru there due to the construction, but I’m thinking stopping and waiting for a ‘space’ isn’t an option. With all the road construction going on around here, now is not the time to be a paranoid driver!

    September 7th, 2010 9:25 am

  7. marjie

    People are so “stupid” when it comes to driving. When a lane ends, I leave enough room for 3 cars to get over. Do you think they do? Heck no, they all wait till the last minute so they can be a few cars ahead of the rest of us!

    September 7th, 2010 9:30 am


    Dear Road Warrior,
    Don’t you think “Road Warrior” seems too aggressive?
    Maybe there is too much war, too much aggression. To stop the Gulf oil leak they talked about a top kill and a bottom kill. There was a war on poverty there is a war on crime. Our politicians talk about fighting for us.
    War, what is it good for?

    September 7th, 2010 9:40 am

  9. Cal

    Message to those on 101 already – go 55 mph if it is posted. . . stay in MIDDLE lane so those coming on freeway have somewhere to merge to. . . especially at Northbound Fulton and Airport on ramps!

    September 7th, 2010 10:36 am

  10. Road.Warrior

    Thanks for letting me know about Leslie. I’ll add her name to my list of contacts.

    September 7th, 2010 11:11 am

  11. Rick

    “Be ready to exit when your offramp comes up. I’ve seen too many people cut across multiple lanes of traffic when they seem to suddenly realize their exit is at hand.”

    These people don’t “suddenly realize” their exit is coming up, they wait until the last minute to get ahead of everyone possible, before they cut across all lanes of traffic again causing others to hit the brakes. Get in your exit lane ahead of time, so traffic doesn’t have to grind to a halt for you!

    September 7th, 2010 12:00 pm

  12. Road.Warrior

    Rick, You’re probably right. I was giving people the benefit of the doubt with “suddenly realize.”

    September 7th, 2010 12:43 pm

  13. ultrasound technician

    My cousin recommended this blog and she was totally right keep up the fantastic work!

    September 21st, 2010 12:13 pm

  14. Nneka Jenkins

    It is so frustrating that people don’t properly merge anymore! For some reason, drivers entering highways these days don’t seem to understand that THEY need to yield to exiting drivers. I am tired of drivers making poor decisions when merging. If I am exiting the highway, you need to enter the highway BEHIND me, not aggressively speeding up to the point where you’re trying to merge in front of me while the lane is running out!

    September 22nd, 2010 12:57 pm

  15. Srinivas

    Yes, i do have lot of confusion in merging. I used to slow down the car to see if there are no cars coming or lot of space to merge. Thanks for these tips. Really helpful. Any links to live videos of proper merging is really helpful. However, by knowing these tips, I will be for sure a good driver with good merging sense, doesn’t matter if others having merging sense or not!!!

    January 13th, 2011 10:20 pm

  16. Susan Lowes

    I don’t like it when drivers go about 10 miles in the slow lane, making it difficult for drivers to merge.

    November 17th, 2011 2:53 pm

  17. Trina

    So why is it that when Someone is MERGING onto the freeway on a LONG entrance ramp and I am about 1 car length from the car in front of me and there are about 5 car lengths behind me that are EMPTY..These JACKASSES, try to CRAM their vehicles between me and the guy in front of me… We are almost scraping paint off the sides of our cars before I raise the “I SURRENDER” flag and try to jump lanes just to let BOZO the CLOWN merge..when he only had to SLOW DOWN and FIT IN BEHIND THE MOVING traffic on the freeway. I was taught in 1966 that this was HOW you MERGED onto CHICAGO Traffic. I think it’s more of a “PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE” thing.. HA HA! I made you move over so I could get in FRONT of you..ALL the jerk had to do was rate his speed to moving freeway traffic ( As I was taught over 40+ years ago) Thing is, I’m not sure half the BOZO population is even driving with INSURANCE!!! So is it worth “Tweedle DEE” slamming into my car? Now that I know that unless we are bumper-to-bumper, I have the right of way and BOZO can easily fit behind me.. I’ll just let him check out how good my body repair shop really is!! So next time you see a RED CADDY CTX with personalized plates in the far right lane on the freeway, if you do not know proper MERGE procedure, I’m not moving 1 inch!!

    August 15th, 2013 11:56 pm

  18. Mel


    In some areas, you could be ticketed for staying in the middle lane. The law is “keep right except to pass,” and that applies even when there are more than two lanes.

    Right lane = travel lane
    Middle lane = passing lane
    Left lane = passing the passing lane

    In a “keep right except to pass” jurisdiction, you are expected to move over to the right when you are done passing whomever was in the (travel) lane to your right—and stay there unless you come upon someone going slower than you.

    August 26th, 2013 12:31 pm

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