In New England they are called Rotarys. in New Jersey public circles; and roundabouts in much of the English-speaking world. Many frustrated drivers may have a more colorful name.
There is an intersection in Farmington Hills, Michigan that some drivers try to avoid. Statistics show that this intersection, where the busy 14-Mile and Orchard Lake roads meet, was the third most dangerous intersection in the state in 2019 Michigan Auto Law.
It is a roundabout, a road construction concept that aims to reduce accidents and traffic jams. In this case, it probably had the opposite effect. Michigan Auto Law statistics show 178 accidents and 22 injuries occurred in 2019. The most dangerous intersection in the state? It’s also a roundabout.
New Jersey has had large diameter traffic circles since 1925, but in recent years smaller diameter roundabouts, which work similarly but are considered safer, have replaced some. Given the reduced speed of the smaller circle, it is easier for drivers to merge together. Other aging communities in New Jersey have given way to signal light intersections. Whether these circular intersections are traffic circles or roundabouts, a generation of east coast drivers visiting the communities on the Jersey Shore have gritted their teeth while navigating.
Driving around a roundabout can be intimidating to the uninitiated, but the truth is, it’s not very difficult if done correctly. Police officers recommend motorists approaching the intersection to slow down and give in to pedestrians or vehicles approaching from the left before entering. If there is more than one lane, use the left lane to make a left turn at a conventional intersection and the right lane to turn right. Or use one of the two lanes to continue on the street you assumed.
Many drivers become concerned when approaching a roundabout at the intersection of busy roads. Some will aggressively brake shortly before entering or not give in to drivers who are already at the intersection. others change lanes in a circle. Some stop in a circle, thinking they should give in to vehicles trying to get in. Any of these actions can result in a collision, and statistics show that this is often the case.
Statistics also show that, overall, roundabouts are less dangerous for people than traffic lights (although the vehicles are not). The Road Safety Insurance Institute notes that entering a roundabout forces drivers to slow down. Since the vehicles are circling in one direction, fatal frontal and angular collisions are unlikely. When properly designed with sidewalks on the edge, they should also be safer for pedestrians. The Federal Motorway Administration According to roundabouts, accidents that cause serious injuries reduce by 78 to 82 percent compared to traffic hubs.
Both defenders and critics of roundabouts cite a lack of education and training as the reason for the frequency of roundabout accidents in the United States.
In the UK, roundabouts date back to the dawn of the automobile age, so most drivers learn to use them at a young age and seem to have less trouble than American drivers – think of the failed Chevy Chase launch to a London roundabout in the film “European Vacation” – but British roundabouts are anything but accident-free. Statistics cited on the Gov.UK website point out that in 2018 intersection accidents, slightly more minor incidents but fewer serious accidents occurred at roundabouts than at intersections.
Despite the relatively good record of British roundabouts, some of them will be replaced by signaled intersections, according to a Article 2015 in The Guardian. The article claims that traffic experts in UK cities have decided that traffic lights allow for better traffic flow and are safer for cyclists. For example, some of the UK’s 25,000 roundabouts are disappearing while others are simply adding traffic signals to control access to the roundabout. Some who debate the difference between traffic circles and roundabouts claim that adding signal lights makes them traffic circles. Confusing isn’t it?
The British aren’t the only ones finding that bikes and roundabouts may not mesh well. A 2011 report on the Michigan Department of Transportation’s use of roundabouts found that roundabout remodeling increases the number of bicycle and car accidents that result in injury. Given the global pressure to drive more and drive less, this is a significant disadvantage.
While the UK has eliminated roundabouts, France is adding more than 30,000 to its list. Abbeville residents, who have no traffic signals and a large number of roundabouts, have found that they make life on the road more pleasant. But while the French generally embrace the concept, Everything is not very well. Critics claim the circular intersections symbolize the nation’s over-reliance on cars and urban sprawl.
Roundabouts work well in Abbeville as the traffic is moderate to light. Problems occur in areas with heavy traffic. A document from 2007 Los Angeles Roundabout Policy notes that with heavy traffic, the diameter of the carriageway must increase. This in turn leads to higher speeds, reduced safety and reduced efficiency.
Although many drivers are initially uncomfortable negotiating roundabouts, their opinion of them improves as they continue to use them. A Washington State Poll The Road Safety Insurance Institute showed that only 32 percent preferred roundabouts before construction, but 63 percent liked them after driving. Other polls show similar results. If there is consensus on the opinion of the roundabout, it seems that they work well when traffic is relatively light and drivers are familiar with the concept, but that they can be an obstacle if either of these conditions is not is satisfied.
The question might eventually turn to “Do robots like roundabouts?” Autonomous cars with a multitude of sensors and microprocessors at the wheel shouldn’t have a problem negotiating the toughest circular intersections, but mix these artificially intelligent vehicles with a fleet of old cars and the results could prove to be interesting.