Roundabouts / by kevin murray

Most people when they are driving just prefer to keep on going, to keep on moving, and aren't particularly thrilled about stopping at traffic lights or even worse, stop signs.  Traffic lights typically aren't too bad, especially if there is a sensor in the road that recognizes your vehicle and if the traffic light is reasonable about turning green or staying green for your driving pleasure.  Stop signs, on the other hand, are almost always annoying because by law, you must stop, even if there isn't a car, a person, or a deer around for miles and miles.


The first time I came upon a roundabout I really didn't know what it was, or what was going on, but after a brief learning curve, I recognized the superiority and brilliance behind roundabouts.  For instance, roundabouts are fairly intuitive as you yield to the car in the roundabout, roundabouts are cost efficient, because they eliminate the need and expense of traffic lights, roundabouts are safer at intersections because they eliminate the need or urge to "run" a light, they are also safer because the speed that you travel through a roundabout is slower than your speed would be traveling through a normal intersection, and roundabouts improve fuel economy because there is less idling of your car engine and in conjunction with less idling cars emit less emissions.


Studies have shown significant reductions in collisions injuries and fatalities when roundabouts are put in place of traffic signals or stop signs.  For instance, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety states that: "roundabouts reduced injury crashes by 75 percent at intersections where stop signs or signals were previously used for traffic control." While roundabouts are not cheaper than simple stop signs, they are a more efficient way for traffic to move at a reasonable pace without having to stop, and roundabouts are clearly cheaper and safer over the long term than traffic signals, as has been proven in numerous studies.


Americans love their automobiles, so anything that can improve their driving experience, is also cost efficient, and improves vehicle and pedestrian safety is something that should be embraced.   Roundabouts serve that purpose quite well and should become an integral part of our driver's education and also a part of a driver's road test, as the prevalence of roundabouts should continue to increase yearly in the United States.  It isn't often that we come across an improvement that has so little down side and provides such important benefits as roundabouts do to the driving experience.


Consequently, cities and communities should take a careful look at their budgets, specific street safety issues, and their resources that they have at their disposal to ascertain as to whether they can improve, replace, or add a roundabout to intersections in their community.  New roadways that are developed should be analyzed with roundabouts being the default feature in absence of compelling reasons why it should not be.  We have learned about the usefulness of safety belts and the lives that they have saved, there should also be an equal and concerted effort to understand and to educate the public of the incredible value of roundabouts.