Driving the Modern Roundabout

Driving the Modern Roundabout http://learningcenter.statefarm.com/auto/safety/driving-the-modern-roundabout/ bb3 Jul 25, 2013

By Staff Writer State Farm™ Employee

Once seen only in Europe, modern traffic roundabouts — circular intersections that move vehicles in one direction without signal lights — are becoming increasingly popular in North America. Since first constructed in Nevada in 1990, more than two thousand have been built across the United States and many are starting to appear in Canada.

Today's roundabouts are much safer than the large traffic circles constructed years ago where vehicles would enter, merge, circulate, change lanes, and exit at high speeds. Built around a central island, modern roundabouts are considerably smaller and require traffic to enter at a much slower pace. Drivers yield the right-of-way to the traffic already circulating and, once inside, do not change lanes.

Many people who have never experienced driving through a modern roundabout are concerned they won't be able to navigate the unfamiliar traffic pattern. But several studies have shown that people strongly support them after they learn their way around.

Benefits of Modern Roundabouts

  • Traffic safety. Since traffic only moves in one direction, the potential for right-angle, left-turn, and head-on collisions is virtually eliminated. Rear-end collisions are also greatly reduced and studies from the National Cooperative Highway Research Program have shown a more than 90% reduction in fatalities, 76% reduction in injuries, and a 35% reduction in all crashes.
  • Safer for older drivers. Forty percent of all crashes that involve drivers over the age of 65 occur at intersections, nearly twice the rate of experienced younger drivers. The AARP would like to see more roundabouts constructed because of the numerous safety benefits they offer.
  • Pedestrian safety. In general, modern roundabouts are safer for pedestrians than traditional intersections. This is due to reduced traffic speeds and because pedestrians walk on sidewalks around the perimeter, which requires crossing only one direction of traffic at a time. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, studies in Europe indicate that, on average, converting conventional intersections to roundabouts can reduce pedestrian crashes by about 75%.
  • Reduced pollution. Fuel consumption, and congestion. Fewer stops and starts and less time idling can help decrease fuel consumption as much as 30 percent while also helping to reduce carbon emissions. And there is typically less delay, allowing traffic to flow with up to 50% more efficiency.
  • Accommodate all vehicle types. Modern roundabouts can be built to accommodate large vehicles using a truck apron — a slightly raised area around the inner circle — that provides trucks, buses, trailers, and emergency vehicles plenty of room to navigate.
  • Community advantages. Roundabouts are usually less costly than traditional intersections by eliminating the installation and maintenance of signal lights, electricity costs, and red-light cameras. They may also reduce noise and be functionally and aesthetically pleasing.

How to Drive a Single-Lane Roundabout

  • Slow down. As you approach, look for a yellow "roundabout ahead" sign with an advisory speed limit and watch out for pedestrians and bicyclists in the crosswalk.
  • Look left and yield. Be prepared to stop as circulating traffic has the right-of-way.
  • Wait for gap in traffic and enter. Once you enter the circle, do not stop or overtake vehicles slightly ahead of you as they may be exiting.
  • Proceed to your exit. Proceed counterclockwise to your exit point. You have the right-of-way in the roundabout.
  • Exit. As you approach your exit, use your right turn signal. Watch for pedestrians and bicyclists in the crosswalk and be prepared to stop.

Learn more about driving a single lane roundabout (PDF) from New Hampshire's Department of Transportation.

How to Drive a Double-Lane Roundabout

  • Slow down. As you approach look for two signs — the yellow "roundabout ahead" sign and a black-and-white "lane choice" sign. Watch out for pedestrians and bicyclists in the crosswalk.
  • Choose a lane. To go straight or right, get in the right lane. To go straight or left, or make a make U-turn, get in the left lane.
  • Look left and yield. Be prepared to stop as circulating traffic has the right-of-way.
  • Wait for gap in traffic and enter. Once you enter the circle, stay in your lane and do not stop or overtake vehicles slightly ahead of you as they may be exiting.
  • Proceed to your exit. Proceed counterclockwise to your exit point. You have the right-of-way in the roundabout.
  • Exit. As you approach your exit, use your right-turn signal. Watch for pedestrians in the crosswalk and bicyclists and be prepared to stop.

Learn more about driving a multi-lane roundabout (PDF) from the City of Springfield, Oregon.

Pedestrians and Bicyclists

  • Pedestrians. You should always stay on the designated walkways when approaching and leaving a roundabout. Look for oncoming vehicles — do not assume they will stop to let you cross. Wait for a gap in traffic, then enter the crosswalk. After crossing the roadway, proceed to your desired location.
  • Bicyclists. In general, you should walk your bicycle across the pedestrian crosswalk. If you are an experienced cyclist, you may want to ride with traffic in the roundabout. If doing so, you must follow the same rules as vehicles and yield as you enter the roundabout.

Modern roundabouts may seem a little foreign at first, but once you get used to them, you'll see how convenient and safe they can be for everyone. The Washington State Department of Transportation has an in-depth five-part video series that answers a lot of the questions or concerns you may have.

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