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Are Roundabouts Safer Than Intersections?

By Jason Bottlinger on March 2, 2022

A roundabout is a circular intersection where drivers travel around a center island. Also known as traffic circles, roundabouts are very popular in Europe and they are becoming more common in the United States.

You may have noticed new roundabouts popping up in Omaha and throughout the state. Traffic engineers appreciate roundabouts because they reduce congestion and eliminate some of the more dangerous types of crashes. But roundabouts are difficult to get used to, often causing accidents and creating new challenges for drivers unfamiliar with them.

Why Cities Choose Roundabouts

Roundabouts reduce congestion by keeping cars constantly moving in a counterclockwise direction. Drivers are expected to yield as they enter the roundabout instead of waiting for a green light. Roundabouts help prevent serious accidents by forcing everyone to reduce their speed to about 20 mph.

Roundabouts reduce the severity of accidents by eliminating impact points that cause head-on collisions. Left-hand turns at traditional intersections are a leading cause of crashes and fatalities, but you never have to make one at a roundabout. Roundabouts are also less expensive to operate because they don’t have traffic lights to maintain.

Problems with Roundabouts

The biggest difficulty with roundabouts is that drivers don’t always know what to do, especially the first time they use one. When roundabouts are introduced to a community, it takes a substantial effort to educate people about how to use them properly. And drivers who don’t use roundabouts regularly and people who are new to a community can make mistakes that cause accidents.

Common problems with roundabouts include:

  • Speeding. Drivers are used to passing through an intersection without reducing their speed, but they need to slow down and maintain a constant speed when negotiating a roundabout.
  • Failure to yield. Drivers are expected to yield as they enter a roundabout and wait until a space opens up. But American drivers expect to be told what to do at an intersection by a stop sign or a traffic light. The constant motion and unique rules of a roundabout can be confusing and dangerous.
  • Sudden stops. Traffic continues a steady speed in a roundabout, and drivers are supposed to keep moving until they choose their exit point. This may be difficult for drivers who are used to stopping before they make a turn. But if a driver suddenly stops on a roundabout, it’s likely to cause an accident that may involve several vehicles who weren’t expecting it.
  • Using the wrong lane. In a roundabout, drivers need to stay in their assigned lane until it’s time to exit. Road signs instruct drivers about the proper lane to use, but they have to make these decisions quickly without slowing down. Sudden or improper lane changes in a roundabout can cause accidents.
  • Missing your turn-off. Drivers often become frustrated when they miss a turn-off. That means they have to go all the way around before they get another chance to exit.

Have You Been Injured in an Accident?

If you or a loved one has been injured in a crash, your car accident lawyer will investigate the accident and help you get compensation to pay for your medical expenses and other costs related to your accident.

At Bottlinger Law L.L.C., we handle cases in Nebraska, Iowa, Texas, and throughout the Midwest. Call (402) 505-8234 today for a FREE consultation. We’re here to help.

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