Professional race-car driver Jack Baruth has seen plenty of this:
[T]he average American driver merges onto the freeway by looking dead straight ahead, accelerating to about ten miles per hour below the speed limit, and rolling down said merge lane until it ends, at which point he moves over without turning his head a millimeter in either direction.
Imagine how below-average American drivers must do it. I see plenty of them every day on the freeways of Oklahoma City, which have adequate capacity but which are often clogged because of said below-average drivers. One particular subgenus thereof has been on the receiving end of my wrath for at least seventeen years now:
Around here, the police call it “rubbernecking”, and you’ve seen it too: six-car pileup in the far lane, doofus driving by goes through some seriously-contorting neck-craning to get a good look at the carnage, and suddenly it’s a seven-car pileup. Needless to say, the fellows in blue are not thrilled with this sort of thing, but it’s never going to go away — it’s as American as baseball, apple pie, and the remains of a ’91 Chevy being dragged onto a tow-hook. As a people, we love it.
Which is of course untrue: we don’t love it, unless we’re doing it ourselves, as does some corksoaking icehole on I-35 north of I-40 a minimum of four days a week. Then again, traffic moving at 15 mph almost simplifies merging.
Almost. We must allow for the fact that until early in the twenty-first century, ODOT budgeted a maximum of $19.95 per onramp, and as a result the older freeway approaches are nasty, brutish and short. Few, though, are as bad as Classen to I-44 eastbound, which (1) approaches from the left and (2) does so blindly until the last possible moment. I take this every morning, every weekday morning, usually in the dark — the absolute earliest the sunrise comes in this town is 6:14 am, no thanks to DST — and whoever’s choogling along in the left lane, latte in hand, is never going to see me coming.
Reasoning that the latte-bearer is probably doing ten over, I make a practice of being fifteen over by the time the merge lane disappears into a line of Jersey barriers. This is more problematic than you think, since the approach starts on the last curve of the Classen Circle, and the first point at which oncoming traffic is visible is maybe 1.5 seconds away from the time you plow into it. I comfort myself with the thought that at 5000 rpm, I still have 1500 left. And this almost always works. But the operative word, once again, is “almost”:
I’ve seen plenty of cars just stopped dead at the end of on-ramps waiting for a thousand feet of clear space. That’s what happens when the driver simply can’t process the situation well enough to make it work any other way.
So I round the curve at 40, stretch toward the loud pedal, and as light falls upon the scene there’s someone just stopped dead, waiting for me to make his death a literal one. I have yet to plow into any of these folks, but the last time it happened there were two tailgaters trying to inhale my exhaust, and, well, it’s a damn good thing no one was around to take my blood-pressure reading.