No Way Around It: Rotaries Make Roads Safer

The American Automobile Association (AAA) isn’t just for roadside assistance and TripTiks. The organization also sponsors research on important transportation issues. Safety is a key concept, especially now as traffic fatalities appear to be on the rise. According to AAA, safety could be greatly improved through commonsense infrastructure upgrades such as increasing the number of roadside barriers, sidewalks, pedestrian crosswalks, median barriers, and rumble strips. However, traffic injuries and fatalities could potentially be reduced by 30 percent as the result of something not so obvious: roundabouts. Roundabouts, also known as traffic circles or rotaries, reduce the number of ways and places cars can collide with other vehicles and pedestrians. In the event of a collision, the often-deadly T-bone and head-on types are highly unlikely when cars are all moving in a circular pattern.

While roundabouts are common all over Europe and Australia, and have been for more than 50 years, Americans are a little resistant to them. We’ve only had them in this country since 1990, and they haven’t caught on quite as easily as they have in other parts of the world. It only takes a little practice, though, to see how much safer and more efficient they are than traditional intersections. A 2001 survey questioned drivers in three different U.S. communities, and before the roundabouts were built, they had a 31 percent approval rating. Once they were finished and people started using them, approval jumped to 63 percent – and those who strongly opposed them dropped from 41 percent to 15 percent.

An examination of 24 newly constructed circles found a 76 percent reduction in crashes with injuries, a 9 percent reduction in crashes with fatalities, and a 39 percent reduction in crashes overall. So, why are roundabouts so effective? Chiefly because the design reduces the number of points at which two cars can collide. There are 32 points in a signaled intersection where traffic can cross paths. There are only 8 such places in a roundabout. The one-way traffic and angled entrance lanes virtually eliminate the chances of T-bone crashes or head-on collisions. What’s more, the lack of traffic lights means drivers aren’t tempted to speed up to make it through. Instead, they are forced to slow down a bit as they navigate around the circle.

While the cost to construct a roundabout is similar to that of a signaled intersection, the cost to maintain it is considerably lower. Think of it this way: Traffic lights cost anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 each year to maintain, and they last 15 to 20 years. Roundabouts last roughly 25 years and require no traffic lights, which means no maintenance, hardware, or electricity.

If safety and cost don’t get drivers excited, a drastic reduction in traffic congestion should. Nothing keeps traffic moving quite like the removal of stop signs and lights. Promoting a continuous traffic flow can reduce delays by as much as 90 percent in some areas. In turn, keeping the traffic moving reduces greenhouse gas emissions and fuel consumption by as much as 30 percent.

If you or someone you know has been in a car wreck, or if you have any questions about this topic, you can find out more by discussing it with one of the KY vehicle accident attorneys at the Johnson Law Firm. We have years of experience helping people, and we can help you. Our knowledgeable legal team will work closely with you every step of the way and will fight hard to get you the compensation you deserve. Based in Pikeville, KY, we proudly serve communities throughout the Bluegrass State. Contact us by calling 1-606-433-0682 or filling out our online form.

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