Roundabouts are used throughout the country. If you travel across America, you will see an increasing number of roundabouts replacing traditional intersections everywhere. This change in road design became a popular trend, and the trend continues because of its positive effects. Despite the advancements, roundabouts have caused some challenges as drivers get used to them being the new normal. To learn more about roundabouts and how they affect driving conditions, continue reading.
While city planners and other leaders work hard to make roads safer for everyone traveling each day, accidents still happen. When you get into a car crash, you need an attorney to help protect your legal rights and get you the compensation that you deserve. The California car accident lawyers at Arash Law have decades of experience helping injury victims get the money that they need to recover fully. We want to help you, too. Call our office today at (888) 488-1391 to schedule a free consultation.
What Is a Roundabout?
A roundabout is a circular intersection that has replaced traditional intersections in many American cities. A roundabout’s design helps increase road safety and improve traffic flow efficiency. Drivers travel in a single direction, decreasing driver speed and the number of accidents at intersections.
The History of Roundabouts
Roundabouts have existed since the 1960s. They were first used in the United Kingdom, and they have slowly become more popular across the world since their inception. While roundabouts exist in many cities across the United States, they are currently more commonplace in other countries, including France and Australia. However, the United States is following suit with the rest of the world. The first roundabout was installed in Nevada, and other cities and states have continued the trend.
Roundabouts are a response to the large number of crashes at traditional intersections. There was a need for a change in road design to increase the safety of drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists. Thus, the roundabout was born. Roundabouts have proven to increase traffic safety across the United States.
Roundabouts decrease the number of accidents at high-volume intersections. There has been an increase in safety for everyone that shares the road.
Roundabouts and Traffic Flow
One of the most obvious tangible benefits of using roundabouts is the improvement in traffic flow. Roundabout design helps traffic flow and ultimately improves traffic safety. Roundabouts help the problems that high-traffic and congested intersections cause. What follows are benefits to traffic flow after installing a roundabout:
- The IIHS studied roads in Kansas that used a roundabout. The study covered eleven intersections. The study found that that area saw a 65 percent reduction in traffic delays. Those same intersections saw a 52 percent reduction in the number of stalled vehicles since roundabouts were installed in those areas.
- The IIHS studied the traffic trends at intersections that were converted to roundabouts in New York, New Hampshire, and Washington. Of the intersections studied, the IIHS found that where stop signs and traffic signals were replaced with roundabouts, the area saw an 89 percent reduction in vehicle delays and 56 percent fewer vehicle stops.
- The IIHS studied three intersections located in Kansas, Nevada, and Maryland. The IIHS found that vehicle stops decreased by 23 percent and a 37 percent reduction rate of stopped vehicles.
- The IIHS studied intersections in Washington and Bellingham with two-lane roundabouts. The study found that vehicles delayed on minor city roads decreased by 90 percent, and the number of vehicle stops decreased by 43 percent.
Making traffic flow more efficient makes every driver happier, but the increase in traffic flow goes beyond the general mood of drivers. Better traffic flow helps the environment. Because traffic is moving more efficiently, vehicle emissions are reduced, and the amount of fuel consumed by vehicles is decreased. Some statistics on the benefits of roundabouts on the environment include:
- Nitrous oxide emissions were reduced by 44 percent.
- Carbon dioxide emissions were reduced by 45 percent.
- Fuel consumption was reduced by 34 percent.
- Carbon monoxide emissions were reduced by 45 percent.
- Hydrocarbon emissions were reduced by 40 percent.
The United States missed an opportunity to decrease its carbon footprint in the years cities refused to install roundabouts. The IIHS found that if the United States had converted from traditional traffic signals and intersections years ago, it would have reduced the number of vehicle stops by 981 million hours and reduced fuel consumption by 654 million gallons. Clearly, roundabouts seem to be better for our world and better for our experience in traffic.
Challenges Building Roundabouts
Roundabouts take much more space to build than traditional intersections. Despite the safety benefits that roundabouts provide, some areas cannot geographically support a roundabout. City planners must consider the geometric needs before a roundabout is built. In addition to the size needs, city planners should account for the traffic volume that is typical for the area, entrance and exit roads, topography, land use, etc. Areas with a high traffic volume are usually not chosen as areas to build a roundabout.
Benefits of Replacing Traditional Intersections With Roundabouts
Roundabouts increase safety for everyone who shares the road. Changing traditional traffic signs and lights has proven to be worth the time and expense for many cities. Benefits of using roundabouts include:
- Roundabouts significantly reduced traditional intersection crashes, including head-on collisions, right-angle collisions, and left-turn collisions.
- Roundabouts force drivers to slow down. Traditional intersections allow drivers to speed through them. As drivers slow down and think about how to navigate roundabouts, their reaction times increase, and accidents are avoided.
- According to studies, intersection crashes that caused injuries decreased by 80 percent after roundabouts were installed.
- The number of total crashes in cities that use roundabouts decreased by 47 percent.
- Injury-causing crashes in rural areas in high-speed intersections decreased by 62 percent, and the number of total accidents decreased by 85 percent.
How Roundabouts Help Pedestrians
Roundabouts are particularly beneficial for pedestrians. The design of roundabouts gives pedestrians more time to cross the street. Because traffic flows one way in a roundabout, pedestrians only must watch out for oncoming traffic from that direction. Drivers using a roundabout naturally travel slower than at traditional intersections. Because of that, there are fewer crashes at roundabouts caused by speeding drivers.
Other statistics on how roundabouts benefit pedestrians include:
- A European study suggests that since drivers started using roundabouts, the number of pedestrian crashes decreased by 75 percent
- The use of single-lane roundabouts correlated with fewer pedestrian crashes compared to intersections that use traditional traffic signs.
Challenges Roundabouts Cause
Despite all the good that roundabouts have done on roads throughout the country, there are some downsides to the new road design. Some safety challenges that roundabouts have caused include:
- More run-off road accidents
- More sideswipe accidents
- More rear-end accidents
- Because some drivers are unfamiliar with the center island of a roundabout, they may cause a single-car accident if they collide with it.
- The entrance and exit directions are confusing. Collisions happen when drivers are confused by which opening is the entrance and which is the exit.
- Roundabout accidents that involved motorcycles or impaired drivers were overrepresented in the IIHS studies on roundabouts and safety challenges.
Design Features and Roundabout Safety
There are important safety considerations when a city replaces its traditional intersections with roundabouts. The priority is to get drivers to slow down at intersections. To accomplish this goal, cities make the following design feature considerations while planning to begin using roundabouts:
- Use of splitter islands – Splitter islands are islands that separate the entrance lane and the exit lane. The separation will reduce confusion and the number of accidents.
- Use of proper signage – Using roundabouts does not eliminate the need for proper signage on the road. Combing roundabouts, speed limits signs, yield signs, and signs that warn of a roundabout ahead decrease the chances of accidents.
- Landscaping on the center island – Ensuring that vegetation does not block drivers’ view of the center island of a roundabout is key to preventing accidents.
- Increasing the use of pavement markets and lighting – Doing so creates safer roads for all drivers.
- Ensuring that the curvature onto approach roads is adequate – An adequate curvature leaves less room for avoidable accidents.
Most of the safety data across the country has focused on single-lane roundabouts, but some studies have included the safety data on two-lane roundabouts. The data that is available shows that two-lane roundabouts are less safe than single-lane roundabouts. In recent years, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that as drivers become more familiar with roundabouts and how to navigate them, the number of crashes that happen while drivers use roundabouts decreases. According to the IIHS, accidents at two-lane roundabouts decreased by 9 percent yearly. Injury-causing injuries at two-lane roundabouts decreased by one-third yearly.
Multi-lane roundabouts present more safety risks than single-lane roundabouts. One of the most common causes of injuries in multi-lane roundabout crashes is confusion about how to maneuver around the roundabout. In a study done by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 40 percent of drivers reported that they were not confident about using a multi-lane roundabout. Drivers did not know which lane to use or which pavement marking to obey.
Getting familiar with new road designs like roundabouts can be challenging for any driver. When the status quo changes, the chances of accidents increase. If you have suffered an injury in an accident, you need an injury lawyer in California to help preserve your legal rights.
Public Opinion on Roundabouts
Change may always bring about hesitation from the public. Drivers were uninterested in learning something new when roundabouts were poised to take over traditional intersections in many American cities. However, once everyone got used to how roundabouts were used, opinion turned around.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) discovered the following after conducting a study of drivers who were new to roundabouts in their communities:
- The IIHS studied six communities. In the first set of three communities, the IIHS found that 31 percent of drivers that had traditional intersections replaced with single-lane roundabouts had a positive opinion of roundabout use before they were installed compared to the 63 percent of drivers that had a positive opinion of roundabouts after the roundabouts were up and running.
- The IIHS surveyed drivers from three other communities that began using roundabouts. These communities had single-lane roundabouts installed. The study found that only 36 percent of drivers supported using roundabouts before they were installed, and the number jumped to 50 percent after the roundabouts were installed.
- The IIHS asked the six communities that it surveyed their opinion on roundabouts one year after the structures were installed. The survey found that 70 percent of the people in those communities supported using roundabouts.
- In other communities, the use of two-lane roundabouts only had 34 percent public support while the structures were built and 51 percent support after the structure was completed. In its follow-up survey, the IIHS found that 70 percent of community members supported using roundabouts one year after installation.
Effects of Roundabouts on Senior Drivers
Because older drivers are not used to the structure, they are more hesitant to use roundabouts instead of traditional intersections. Despite their resistance to the change, however, the elderly may be the group most likely to receive the most benefits from using roundabouts. Elderly drivers are involved in more intersection crashes than any other demographic.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety collected data on how roundabouts affected senior drivers. Although there is no clear-cut evidence on whether the use of roundabouts makes driving safer for older drivers on their own, there is some evidence that suggests that using roundabouts cuts down on the safety issues that many elderly drivers face. Some of the IIHS’s findings include:
- Many intersection accidents that involved an older driver happened because of a failure to yield the right-of-way. Failure to yield accidents are less likely to occur with roundabouts because roundabouts require drivers to slow down. Drivers are moving much more slowly than with traditional intersections. Because the speeds are lower, the severity of failure to yield accidents is much less, giving senior drivers more time to respond and avoid accidents.
- In recent years, intersection accidents that involved multiple cars were the deadliest type of crash for older adults. Senior drivers over 80 years old made up 40 percent of fatalities in intersection accidents.
- Drivers aged 15-69 made up 20 percent of all fatal intersection accidents.
Senior Drivers’ Opinion on Roundabouts
Roundabouts have eliminated common accident-causing problems for senior drivers. Many accidents that involve elderly drivers at intersections are caused by a driver failing to yield. It seems that elderly drivers appreciate that other vehicles must slow down. The senior driver population’s reaction to roundabouts was positive, as roundabouts did not have a negative effect on older drivers.
The IIHS conducted a study where it surveyed the elderly population of six communities. The result of the survey are as follows:
- In the communities that were studied where roundabouts replaced traditional intersections, two-thirds of drivers aged 65 and older were in favor of using roundabouts.
- Two-thirds of drivers aged 70 and older were also in favor of using roundabouts.
In addition to using roundabouts, the IIHS found that using lights and pavement markings helps older drivers feel more confident, safer, and more comfortable while behind the wheel.
Call a California Personal Injury Attorney Today to Schedule a Free Case Evaluation
The installation of roundabouts across the United States is a road design advancement that has increased driver safety. While this safety improvement should be celebrated, roundabouts have not eliminated traffic accidents. Unfortunately, we live in a world where people make careless mistakes, and sometimes people get hurt. If you have suffered an injury in a traffic accident, that is where the legal team at Arash Law steps in to help.
At Arash Law, we have decades of experience helping accident victims get their lives back on track. We are passionate about working on getting each of our clients the compensation that they deserve after an accident. In our decades of experience, Arash Law has recovered more than $400 million in compensation for those who chose to trust us with their case. We want to help you, too. Call us today at (888) 488-1391 to schedule a free consultation.