Are Traffic Roundabouts Safe?
A roundabout is a circular intersection where drivers travel counterclockwise around a center island. Roundabouts are popular in Europe, and they are becoming more common in Texas, too. There are no lights or traffic signals in a roundabout, and traffic flows continuously.
Many traffic engineers favor roundabouts because they increase overall traffic flow, they are less expensive to maintain than intersections with traffic lights, and they eliminate certain types of accidents. But roundabouts pose their own safety risks, especially for drivers who aren’t use to them.
Safety Issues with Roundabouts
There are some safety benefits that come when you replace traditional intersections with roundabouts. Traffic is slowed and there are fewer crash points. Some of the most dangerous types of crashes are eliminated with roundabouts, such as T-bones, head-on collisions, and accidents that occur when a driver is making a left turn. But there are some new risks caused by roundabouts, too.
In a roundabout, traffic flows in one direction at a steady speed, with vehicles constantly entering and leaving. Determining right of way can be difficult because there are multiple points of entry. Roundabouts also create special challenges for bicyclists and pedestrians who are used to drivers coming to a complete stop and allowing them to use a crosswalk.
Driver Mistakes That Cause Crashes
In a roundabout, incoming traffic is expected to yield. But drivers who haven’t negotiated a roundabout can make a wrong decision that may lead to an accident. Drivers who are used to being told when to stop at an intersection may have difficulty with the constant motion of a roundabout.
When a community begins to replace traditional American four-way intersections with roundabouts, there will be an adjustment period when accidents may increase. People who are new to the area or people who don’t generally travel on roads that have roundabouts are also vulnerable to making hazardous decisions.
Some common mistakes that inexperienced drivers make when negotiating a roundabout include:
- Driver fails to yield when entering a roundabout. Drivers must check to make sure that all lanes are empty before entering.
- Driver suddenly stops. Sometimes the constant motion of a roundabout can paralyze a driver who panics and simply stops.
- Driver fails to slow down. American drivers are used to entering intersections at the speed of traffic, but it’s essential to slow down to 20 mph when entering a roundabout. Otherwise, a driver may lose control of their vehicle or rear-end another driver.
- Distracted driving is always a dangerous practice. Looking away from the road to check your phone can be particularly dangerous in a roundabout because the traffic never stops moving.
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