A roundabout is an alternative to a traditional four way intersection. Roundabouts require a driver go around a circle in order to exit to a road straight ahead, to the left, or to the right. While four-way intersections are controlled by traffic signals, roundabouts usually require a motorist to yield before entering. Once in the roundabout, drivers aren't required to stop and can go around the circle until they reach the road they wish to turn off on.
Many drivers in the United States find roundabouts confusing and so roundabouts are not often used. In 2007, approximately 1,000 roundabouts existed throughout the United States, according to UC.edu. Roundabouts are much more prevalent in other countries, suggesting confusion and resistance can be overcome. By 2003, there were more than 30,000 roundabouts located throughout France.
Overcoming concerns about roundabouts is important to increase road safety in the United States. An experienced T-Bone accident lawyer knows roundabouts can prevent right angle accidents, which while a common type of car accident in West Virginia, are some of the deadliest of all collisions.
Why Roundabouts Can be Safer Than Traditional Intersections
One Department of Transportation report suggesting conversion to a roundabout cited a study of 17 intersections conducted in 2009 by the Transportation Research Board. The intersections had high speed approaches prior to conversion to roundabouts. Following conversion, an 84 percent decline in injury-causing collisions occurred and 100 percent of fatal accidents were prevented.
Why do roundabouts improve safety? One big benefit of roundabouts is reduced points of conflict. At a typical intersection, 32 potential points of conflict exist where vehicles may collide. T-Bone crashes are common at intersection points of conflict.
T-Bone crashes are named because the cars form a "T" shape when a driver going straight hits the side of another vehicle. The side of a vehicle provides virtually no protection from impact since side airbags are less effective than front airbags and the side of the car is too think to crumple and absorb force of the collision.
In a roundabout, only eight points of conflict exist. When cars do collide at a roundabout, the crash is likely to be a low-angle collision, not a high-angle T-Bone accident. Low angle collisions are far less likely to cause permanent injuries or fatalities.
Roundabouts also force motorists to slow their speed. Accidents at low speeds result in less force and momentum, thus less serious injuries. When motorists travel more slowly, their vehicles do not have as long a stopping distance as cars traveling at high speeds, so more accidents can be averted.
For all of these reasons, more roundabouts mean fewer crashes and safer roadways. Roundabouts are eligible for 100 percent funding under the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act and more roundabouts should be installed by taking advantage of this special federal funding source.