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Are Roundabouts A Safer Alternative for Intersections

There was a time when roundabouts seemed uniquely European. Americans observed them in movies, or in person for those lucky enough to travel to Europe. The idea has become accepted in the United States and is rapidly becoming more prevalent. In this post, we will discuss roundabouts in general, whether they are safe, and how their safety compares to other intersections.

What Is a Roundabout?

Most people have seen roundabouts at this point. However, communities that do not use them still exist, so we will provide a brief explanation. 

Roundabouts are circular intersections used in place of stop signs or traffic lights. Roads entering the roundabout are curved, and there is a yield sign for each road entering the roundabout. Vehicles that approach the roundabout must yield to those that are already inside the circle. In the United States, the roundabout traffic travels counterclockwise, meaning a car entering would turn to the right. However, yielding cars may enter the rotation as soon as it is safe. Cars then exit on the appropriate road for their route of travel.

How Common Are Roundabouts?

Roundabouts are growing more and more popular in the United States. A brief history helps to highlight the rapid growth of this traffic configuration.

According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHA), the first “yield-at-entry roundabouts” were constructed in the United Kingdom in 1956. The first modern roundabouts in the United States were built in 1990. While the federal government does not keep statistics on roundabouts, the Washington Post cites an engineer from Oregon, Lee Rodegerdts, who started counting them in the late 1990s. In the beginning, Mr. Rodegerdts counted approximately 300, and 25 years later, the count had risen to 9,000. The growth in popularity clearly has been massive.

Are Roundabouts Safer than Other Intersection Types?

The FHA and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) state that roundabouts are a safer alternative to other intersections. The Oregon Department of Transportation, citing the FHA, provides the following impressive statistics comparing roundabouts to traditional intersections:

  • Roundabouts have 90 percent fewer fatalities.
  • Roundabouts have a 76 percent reduction in injuries.
  • Roundabouts have 30 percent fewer crashes.

 Why Are Roundabouts Safer than Other Alternatives?

The first essential element is speed. All cars must slow to enter the roundabout. Contrast this with vehicles that travel through traditional intersections with traffic lights at high rates of speed. Many people speed up in traditional intersections to ensure they make it through before the light changes. Additionally, due to the curvature of the roundabout, drivers cannot drive fast once inside. Therefore, if an accident does occur, it is at a lower rate of speed.

Another critical factor is that everyone angles to the right and travels in the same direction in a roundabout. There are no dangerous left turns in front of oncoming traffic.

The IIHS also states that roundabouts are safer for pedestrians. They walk around the circumference of the circle. While they still must cross streets, traffic flows from only one direction and at a slower rate of speed.

Call with Questions

It is beneficial to society any time we can make traffic patterns safer. However, traffic accidents still occur much more frequently than we would like. The experienced Oregon personal injury attorneys at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield will happily answer your auto accident questions. We strive to hold negligent drivers accountable so that the roads will be safer for all the citizens of Oregon – reach out for a free consultation.