While they're nothing new in some cities, roundabouts can be daunting to those who have never encountered them. But when used correctly, roundabouts can provide a much smoother transition at intersections than stop signs and traffic lights can.
Roundabouts are circular intersections that require drivers to yield to those already in the circle. They provide a more continuous flow of traffic by causing everyone to move through the roundabout at low speeds rather than requiring everyone to come to a complete stop. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, studies have found that daily vehicle delays at intersections decrease by as much as 57 percent after roundabouts have been installed.
In addition to keeping traffic moving, roundabouts can be safer than traditional intersections, according to IIHS. It cites a 2005 study conducted by the Kansas Department of Transportation, which focused on 23 intersections where stop signs and traffic lights had been converted to roundabouts. After the construction of the roundabouts, overall crashes were reduced by 40 percent and crashes with injuries were reduced by 80 percent.
What to do in a roundabout
For roundabouts to provide safety benefits, however, drivers must know how to properly navigate them. Although your first encounters with roundabouts may be confusing, these tips from State Farm will help you navigate them safely:
- Drive slowly. You can reduce your speed in a roundabout, but don't stop unless you're entering and must yield to traffic already in the circle. If there's no traffic within the circle, you're not required to stop, but slowing down may help you get your bearings.
- Yield to oncoming traffic. Roundabout traffic always maintains a constant counterclockwise flow. As you enter a roundabout, you'll always yield to the traffic coming from the left, no matter where you approach the intersection. Wait for a gap, and ease in.
- Select the correct lane. Larger roundabouts may have two or three lanes. The lane you choose will depend on the street you are exiting onto. For example, stay in the left lane if you need to turn around or turn left. Stay in the right lane if you will be turning right. Going straight? Look for signs that direct you to the correct lane for through traffic.
- Don't stop. One of the reasons roundabouts let cars move more quickly through an intersection is because the flow of traffic always is moving. If you get off on the wrong street, simply turn around at the first safe opportunity and approach the roundabout again.
- Be alert. Always be aware of other cars while in a roundabout. Don't forget to keep an eye out for bicyclists and pedestrians as well. Always use your turn signal.