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West Michigan family escapes close call in 'zipper merge' road rage incident

David Stoffer said the driver honked incessantly, flipped him off and tailgated his car for around 20 miles, inches from his bumper.

MUSKEGON COUNTY, Mich. — 13 ON YOUR SIDE has documented four road rage incidents involving guns since roughly mid-July.  

Weapons or no weapons, however, tempers boiling over on the freeway remains a dangerous problem.

While this latest act didn’t involve a gun, the West Michigan driver on the receiving end of another driver’s aggression said he worried for his family’s safety.

David Stoffer and his family were recently on their way back from the lake, navigating summer traffic on the freeway.

“There were a few cars,” Stoffer recalled. “I was in the left lane with a few other cars.”

As the lanes narrowed at the entrance to a work site, Stoffer said he went into a maneuver commonly called a ‘zipper merge,' as the signs approaching the construction zone instructed drivers to use both lanes.

“It seemed like he didn't want me to go in,” he said. “Essentially I got in, and then he started honking the horn and flipping me off. This guy was very angry.”

Stoffer’s pregnant wife and three kids were in the car.

He says the driver tailgated the family for about 20 miles, only inches from his bumper.

“This guy seems dangerous,” Stoffer said. “He clearly wanted some sort of confrontation.”

Just as its name implies, the ‘zipper merge’ is frequently employed when one or more lanes is obstructed and involves drivers taking turns entering the open lane—like a zipper.

Experts agree the method is one of the most effective techniques in the playbook to keep traffic flowing smoothly through work zones.   

"Human behavior is very difficult to engineer for," John Richard, MDOT spokesperson explained. "The number one safety feature in any vehicle is the driver."

“I get that it's annoying having people merge… But we're both on the road together trying to get through this construction,” Stoffer said.

Stoffer said he managed to escape to the safety of an exit before the situation could take a turn for the worse.

He said he called State Police and walked them through what happened.

“I just let them know that, you know, can we have maybe more signage? Can we have more education? Maybe even enforcement on people who are trying to act as citizen police officers,” Stoffer explained.


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