Drivers across the Carolinas may have noticed increasing roundabouts at the intersections of roads or highways. Roundabouts offer numerous safety advantages over traditional intersections, but they can be dangerous and chaotic for motorists who’ve never driven them.
What Is a Roundabout – And Is It Safe?
A roundabout includes a circular roadway surrounding a raised center island or median. Vehicles enter the roundabout and travel around the center island or median, exiting the roundabout onto their desired street.
Roundabouts may use traffic signals to control vehicles’ entry, or local traffic laws may govern when vehicles enter the roundabout. For example, in the Carolinas, vehicles must yield to traffic already in the roundabout. Some people also call roundabouts rotaries or traffic circles, although others use those terms to refer to road features larger or smaller than roundabouts.
A roundabout facilitates traffic flow between intersection streets or highways. They were first developed in the United Kingdom and are more commonly found in Europe. However, roundabouts have gained increasing popularity in the United States over the past few decades. Some states have adopted traffic design preferences for roundabouts in road redesigns or new constructions.
Although roundabouts may seem less safe because they often lack traffic signals to control vehicular movement, multiple studies have found that roundabouts increase traffic safety. The U.S. Department of Transportation has found that single-lane roundabouts perform better than two-way stop-controlled intersections. When accidents do occur in roundabouts, they have lower injury rates. One study of eleven intersections in the U.S. converted to roundabouts found that crash rates dipped from 9.3 accidents per intersection to 5.9, with injury crashes reducing by half.
Benefits of a Roundabout
Roundabouts have several safety benefits over traditional signed or signaled intersections. Some of the reasons why roundabouts offer greater safety than traditional intersections include:
- Roundabouts have fewer conflict points than conventional intersections.
- Roundabouts’ designs force drivers to travel at slower speeds, which gives them more time to react to potential traffic hazards and reduces the likelihood and severity of injuries in a crash.
- Roundabouts often have lower pedestrian accident rates since pedestrians only need to cross one direction of traffic at a time as they reach a corner or island.
Road Rules to Keep in Mind
Although increasing in popularity in the U.S., many parts of the country lack roundabouts. However, all motorists should familiarize themselves with the rules of the road for roundabouts, which include the following:
- Look to the left as you approach the stop or yield line at the edge of the roundabout.
- Yield to traffic in the roundabout and look out for pedestrians in the crosswalk.
- Enter the roundabout when you see a gap in traffic and travel around the center circle to your exit, again looking for crossing pedestrians as you reach your exit.
- With multi-lane roundabouts, choose a lane before entering the roundabout based on whether you want to make a right turn, go straight, make a left turn, or make a U-turn. For two-lane roundabouts, choose the right lane for right turns; otherwise, choose the left lane.
Contact an Auto Accident Attorney
If you’ve had an accident in a roundabout due to another driver’s negligence, a Carolina car accident lawyer from Stewart Law Offices can help you pursue compensation. Contact our firm today for a free no-obligation consultation with an auto accident attorney to learn more about your legal options.