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Red state, blue state, merge state, yield state

01/21/2014

If you know American politics, you’ve heard of red states and blue states.

I never knew there were “merge” states and “yield” states until we moved to Maine.

In a yield state, the Department of Transportation places yield signs at the bottom of freeway entrance ramps. The yield sign orders drivers to slow down — or stop if necessary — before entering 65-mph traffic. State officials must believe that once you slow down — or even stop — you can safely decide if your vehicle is fast enough to outrun a fully loaded and up-to-speed 18-wheel tractor-trailer heading northbound on I-95. It’s insane.

As a driver who grew up in a merge state, I accelerate down a ramp and expect to enter traffic at approximately the same speed as those on the freeway. There are no yield signs. If it’s busy, a courteous freeway driver may switch lanes or slightly slow down to let you into traffic flow. In other cases, you may need to let a driver zip passed before entering the freeway. Either way, you are now safely up to speed and have successfully merged into traffic flow. I’m a merger.

In a yield state, many people drive to the bottom of the ramp and stop, risking rear-end collisions and deadly high-speed sideswipes. Jen and I call these people “brakers.”

I’ve seen five or six cars stack up behind these timid, law-abiding brakers creating a traffic jam on the entrance ramp. It’s a real hazard. As a merger, I race down the entrance ramp, look back at freeway traffic and quickly plan my entrance. All of a sudden there’s a braker in front of me plugging up the road. What can you do?

This is not why they invented the clover leaf.

During my first winter in Maine, I volunteered for a local social service agency managing a senior lunch program. I attended a luncheon honoring past volunteers this fall.  At the luncheon,  I sat next to a woman who served as the agency executive director. The woman grew up on the west coast in the 1960s. She looked like a Sausalito hippy, with long, grey hair and handmade bracelets on her wrists. Somehow Maine drivers became a discussion topic. The woman told me she didn’t drive out west and never had a license until she moved to Maine a few years ago as an adult.  “Now with this job I have to drive all over the state,” she said.

I started grousing about brakers at the end of freeway entrance ramps.

“That’s right,” the woman said. “Maine is a yield state.”

She said some states place yield signs at the bottom of  freeway entrance ramps and some don’t. She didn’t have an explanation for it, just that some states are “yield states” and some are “merge states.” I was dumfounded.

In this era of deeply divided, partisan American politics the thought of brakers taking over our highway system scares the bejesus out of me. Somebody better put a Political Action Committee together soon.

God save us from the yield states.

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One Comment
  1. Mary permalink

    This drove me completely nuts when I lived in Connecticut!!! I am a Minnesota Merger…the yield makes no sense! plus in CT they had no build up speed room or merging lane, you just go from the small on ramp going 10 mph to 75 mile and hour traffic lane! it is insane and was one of my pet peeves! (along with the 5 cars that run through the red light at every cycle!

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