I've seen a couple of angst-ridden posts online lately, people stress-writing about a recent experience in getting on the freeway.

I feel your pain.

I remember as a new driver a few years ago (OK, more than a few) the biggest stress I had was the thought of having to merge with full-speed drivers when trying to merge onto the fast-moving Interstate.

How fast should I be going? What if they don't see me? What if there's no room to merge? Who has the right of way?

All these questions popped into my young mind as the day approached in Driver's Ed to make that terrifying trip onto the freeway.

My friends didn't help much, offering up advice like, "Don't worry, they'll let you in," or "They'll see the Driver's Ed sign on your car and stay far away." One friend even counseled, "You probably won't die. Don't worry about it."

The day in question came and I was a nervous wreck. After a few minutes of driving, the instructor told me to head for the freeway onramp so we could do a little freeway driving. He then slipped off his shoes and went to sleep (it was early in the morning).

So it was me driving, a sleeping instructor and two equally nervous rookie drivers in the backseat.

I briefly considered skipping the freeway trip and just heading back to the school, but I had two stool-pigeons in the backseat and the fear of the instructor waking up, so I went for it.

As I attempted to make the merge from the onramp, I sped up to freeway speed (55, or so I thought), checked my mirrors, checked my blind spot and began to make the move.

But the first problem I ran into was this: 55 is not freeway speed. Every other car, including those in the slow lane, was going much faster than that.

I also had the great fortune of having a police car right behind me, adding to the nervousness factor.

It all happened so fast, but I remember picking a gap in traffic, signaling and then going for it. At the same time, traffic began to slow ahead of me and the gap began to close quickly. The only thing I could think to do was stick the nose of the car in the gap and mutter a soft prayer that the huge truck approaching had good brakes.

A few horn blasts later (enough to wake up the Driver's Ed teacher), I was in the lane and there were no loud crashes. I had survived the great merge and would eventually get that coveted driver's license.

Maybe it was my own fault, but I wish I had known about these basic rules for merging before the harrowing experience. These were published recently by the St. George Police Department:

  • You should use the acceleration lane (on-ramp) to match your speed with the other vehicles before pulling onto the roadway.
  • Do not drive so slowly that you block traffic. Slow driving is not always safe driving.
  • If your speed is causing cars to stack up behind you, you are unsafe, discourteous and breaking the law.
  • Do not insist on the right-of-way

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