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How Roundabouts Improve Traffic and Pedestrian Safety

Roundabouts, or traffic circles, are becoming more and more popular with city planners lately to improve traffic flow and overall road safety.  In fact, you’ve probably run into one while driving in a residential area or around the local roads in your community.

Roundabouts have been around for decades, but are gaining more traction as an effective alternative to conventional traffic lights.  In a traditional roundabout, vehicles travel in one counterclockwise direction around a center island.  Vehicles that are entering the roundabout yield to those already in the traffic circle, and there are usually lanes for vehicles to exit the traffic circle onto their desired street.

The most common types of accidents that occur in traditional intersections are left-turn, t-one, and head-on collisions.  Roundabouts have been found to be very effective in intersections that involve high-crash locations, multiple left-turn configurations, and prolonged traffic light cycles.  In fact, some states, such as New York and Virginia, have opted to consider roundabouts as the first option for road planning versus conventional traffic lights.  There are even some smaller islands and regions where traffic lights have been replaced altogether by roundabouts.  Other benefits of traffic circles include reduced fuel consumption and emissions since car spend less time idling at traffic lights.

Roundabouts are considered to be safer than regular traffic intersections since they involve fewer left turns and drivers are forced to slow down before entering a traffic circle.  Areas with roundabouts also tend to have fewer traffic accident fatalities.   And pedestrian safety is often better in areas of a traffic circle than at a regular intersection.  This is because pedestrians walk around the perimeter of the roundabout, and if they have to cross the street, they only have to cross traffic going in one direction.

That is not to say, however, that traffic circles are accident proof.  There are plenty of drivers that do not slow down enough or in time to avoid an accident.  The most common type of accidents seen in traffic circles are one where the driver runs off the road when failing to slow down properly.  Most of these accidents result in the driver crashing into the center island of the traffic circle.  There are also side-swipe accidents when speeding drivers fail to yield when entering a traffic circle.  And rear-end accidents still occur in traffic circles caused by drivers not paying attention to the flow of traffic in front of them.

One helpful way city planners can reduce the number of accidents in traffic circles is to make sure there is proper signage for drivers and pedestrians, especially in situations where there is a multi-lane traffic circle.  Signage for roundabouts should include a notice sign alerting drivers of an upcoming traffic circle.  There should also be a sign diagramming the layout of the roundabout and the exit options.  Yield signs must be present at every entry point so that drivers entering the traffic circle know to yield to vehicles already traveling in the circle.

If you are approaching a traffic circle, be sure that you slow down in time to come to a stop and yield to vehicles already in the traffic circle.  And always pay attention to the car in front of you as they can come to sudden stop in a moment’s notice.

If you or a loved one have been injured in a car accident, call an Atlanta car accident lawyer at the Katz Personal Injury Lawyers, and discuss whether you have grounds for a viable claim for compensation for your losses.

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