Are Roundabouts Safer?

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As more and more people move to cities, urban planners are using different tactics to direct the flow of traffic more efficiently. Roundabouts are a common road fixture in Europe and are being used more in the United States. Although they have their benefits, many Americans are not a fan of them. Let’s take a look at how roundabouts compare to traditional traffic lights.

Roundabouts Reduce Injuries and Fatalities

The Federal Highway Administration found in a study that roundabouts tend to reduce the overall number of fatalities and injuries when they replace a traffic light stop. The numbers are pretty impressive. Roundabouts see a 90% reduction in fatalities, a 75% reduction in injuries and a 40% reduction in pedestrian collisions.

How do Roundabouts Reduce Injuries?

The reasons behind this are threefold. First of all, roundabouts function with reduced speeds. Roundabouts are made for drivers to drive around 15-20 mph. Collisions at this speed are typically minor and very rarely result in a fatality.

Second, roundabouts maintain a continuous flow of traffic that does not stop. This is different from tradition traffic lights that stop traffic during red lights. Because of this continuous flow, there is no red light to “beat” and this means drivers are not accelerating above the speed limit across intersections.

Lastly, roundabouts are designed so that all drivers travel counterclockwise. Because everyone is in the same traffic flow, this eliminates the chances of being in a T-bone or a head-on collision. Collisions that happen while drivers are traveling the same direction are less likely to result in an injury than head-on collisions.

Increase Total Number of Wrecks

Accidents are collisions that involve two cars. Roundabouts are shown to increase the number of wrecks. Wrecks include accidents and collisions involving a lone vehicle, such as when a driver hits a guard rail. Roundabouts incite about 12% more total car wrecks than traditional stop lights. While most of these wrecks are minor, they often cause property damage and for this reason, many drivers in the U.S. are not fans of roundabouts.

How can they Reduce Injuries but Increase Wrecks?

There are many different factors that play into the increased number of wrecks with roundabouts. Driving in a circular motion puts a lot of pressure on your car’s lateral acceleration and can cause spinouts in older vehicles. Combine this increased pressure with inclement weather and you’ve got a high potential for colliding with the curb or another vehicle.

A last consideration especially pertinent to americans is vehicle size. Large trucks and SUV’s have a wide turning radius and roundabouts leave little margin for error in these vehicles.

The statistics seem to show that roundabouts are a safer way to direct traffic than stoplights. They also do not require electricity to function. Because of this, they can function during power outages and save cities up to $10,000 in maintenance costs per year. Because of their safety and economic value, we will likely see more of them popping them up across the country in the coming years.


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