Roundabouts are everywhere. Across the nation and around the world, there’s a major movement to replace traffic signals with roundabouts to ease traffic congestion and prevent car accidents. Do roundabouts reduce accidents in California?
Why are roundabouts better than intersections with traffic signals? For one thing, traffic lights aren’t getting the job done safely.
Currently, there are more than 300,000 intersections with traffic lights in the U.S. They’re the sites of about 2,300 deaths per year and tens of thousands of minor to severe injuries. Although stoplights are intended to prevent accidents, they’re paradoxically attracting them!
Here in California, we have some of the world’s busiest and most dangerous roads. We also have plenty of new roundabouts that come with positives and negatives for local drivers.
The Positives of Roundabouts in California
On the positive side, research shows that when cities convert their four-way and two-way intersections to roundabouts, fatal and injury-causing crashes drop significantly. The California Local Technical Assistance Program (LTAP) has published these interesting statistics about roundabout conversions:
- After a four-way traffic signal is removed and a roundabout is installed, there is typically a 78% reduction in severe crashes and an overall 48% reduction in all types of crashes.
- After a two-way stop becomes a roundabout, severe crashes drop by 82% and overall crashes drop by 44%.
Nationwide, there are 35% fewer car accidents in roundabouts than in traditional intersections. The Federal Highway Administration says roundabouts can offer a up to 90% reduction in intersection-related fatalities and a 75% reduction in intersection-related injuries.
Another major point in favor of roundabouts is that they’re much safer for smaller-size road users like pedestrians, scooter riders, and cyclists. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) recommends roundabouts for three main reasons:
- Direction – Roundabouts involve unidirectional traffic instead of multidirectional traffic, which is much easier for pedestrians to navigate.
- Speed – Roundabouts generally have lower speeds than roads with traffic signals, and lower speeds are associated with fewer pedestrian/cyclist accidents.
- Distance – Roundabout crossing distances are short compared to the much wider crossing distances of intersections with traffic lights. This means pedestrians travel quickly across two short spaces rather than taking more time to move across one long space.
Knowing all of these benefits, installing roundabouts seems like a no-brainer. But roundabouts still come with some considerable drawbacks that California drivers should keep in mind.
The Negatives of Roundabouts in California
One downside of roundabouts is that they take time to get used to. Driver uncertainty is a big problem at newly-installed roundabouts. When a driver hasn’t encountered a roundabout before, they’re more likely to use it incorrectly and cause a traffic accident.
Another issue is the ongoing confusion and disagreement about roundabout rules. Any driver who took their driving test more than a decade ago probably didn’t learn much about the proper procedures for entering and exiting roundabouts. Prior to 2010, there were only a few thousand roundabouts in the entire nation, but by 2014, there were more than 10,000.
Plus, many people just hate roundabouts. Angry people might be more prone to speeding through roundabouts too quickly, refusing to allow other cars to merge, halting abruptly, displaying road rage, and causing collisions.
How to Use a Roundabout Safely in California
Confused about roundabouts? Here are some tips from Caltrans for using roundabouts properly.
- Before you enter a roundabout, look ahead to see who is entering and anticipate which lane you’ll be using.
- Reduce your speed as necessary and travel within the speed limit for the roundabout.
- Remember, roundabouts travel ONLY counterclockwise.
- Yield to traffic entering from your left and yield to traffic already within the roundabout.
- As you enter, yield to vehicles in both lanes, not just the lane that’s closest to you.
- Watch out for vehicles changing lanes and exiting abruptly.
- Beware of crossing pedestrians/cyclists and yield to them.
- Never pass other vehicles in a roundabout.
- Use your turn signal to indicate when you’re exiting the roundabout.
- Exit the roundabout slowly and cautiously.
- If you miss your exit, continue around the roundabout and try again when you come around.
- Never drive in reverse within a roundabout.
What to Do After a Roundabout Accident
A roundabout accident can take you by surprise. Even when you’re following all the rules and driving carefully, another driver might sideswipe or rear-end you. It’s your right to pursue accident compensation for your medical bills, lost days of work, and more.
After a roundabout accident, contact the attorney team at Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers. We handle many areas of personal injury law, including car accidents that happen in roundabouts. We believe you should be able to focus on recovering from your accident while we handle the legal details. Call 877-380-8852 today for a free case evaluation.