Most drivers either love or hate roundabouts. Either way, the roundabout is becoming a more commonplace intersection design around the country due to proven safety advantages. National road safety organizations, such as the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), support roundabouts as a safer alternative to conventional intersections. Roundabouts are circular intersections rather than typical cross intersections. Their unique features can improve the flow of traffic and help prevent some of the deadliest types of car accidents, including head-on collisions and T-bone crashes.
Roundabout Safety Facts
The key elements of a roundabout are a consistent counterclockwise flow of traffic, yield control and low speeds. Unlike a standard intersection, vehicles can enter a roundabout from all sides simultaneously, as long as it is safe to enter the roundabout. This can improve the flow of traffic and prevent buildups at busy times of day. Yield control gives drivers the power to decide when it is safe to enter the roundabout. A roundabout also forces drivers to reduce their speeds, decreasing the risks of high-speed collisions such as those that can occur at traditional intersections.
- Slower speeds
- Fewer opportunities for serious collisions
- No red-light runners
- No head-on collisions
- Fewer impact points
- Fewer rear-end collisions and fender benders
- Better pedestrian visibility
About 25% of all traffic deaths in the U.S. happen at intersections. Roundabouts have proven benefits over intersections in safety of design. The FHWA reports roundabouts reduce injury and fatal crashes by 78% to 82% compared to conventional intersections. A typical intersection has 32 conflict points, compared to only 8 at a roundabout. The eight remaining are all same-direction conflict points, exposing drivers to minor collisions such as sideswipes instead of deadly head-on accidents. Fewer and less dangerous conflict points mean roundabouts are safer than intersections in general.
How to Properly Use a Roundabout
If you are a driver who feels uncomfortable or confused when encountering a roundabout, you are not alone. These relatively new intersection designs are not as common as traditional intersections. They can improve roadway safety in a community, however, as well as reduce your odds of getting into a fatal accident. Learn how to properly drive through a roundabout to increase your safety and the safety of those around you.
- Yield to vehicles in both lanes of the roundabout, not just the closest lane to you. Vehicles in the inside lane may still exit.
- Choose your lane before entering a roundabout. Look at signs and road markings to figure out the correct lane for you.
- Reduce your speed to at or below the posted limit. Slow down when approaching a roundabout, while in a roundabout and when exiting a roundabout.
- Yield to traffic on your left. Traffic in a roundabout has the right-of-way. This traffic moves in a counterclockwise direction, so look to your left to watch for oncoming vehicles.
- Yield to pedestrians. Roundabouts have pedestrian crosswalks like other intersections, usually across the roads leading up to the traffic circle. You must always yield to crossing pedestrians before a roundabout.
- Never pass while in a roundabout. Passing other vehicles while in a roundabout could lead to risks such as speeding, unsafe merges or cutting other drivers off.
If in doubt in a roundabout, take it slow. Take your time, read all relevant roadway signs, yield to drivers already in the roundabout and pull out only when it is safe to do so. Do not let other drivers pressure you into making a dangerous decision. Drive slowly and carefully in the correct lane of the roundabout until it is your turn to exit. If you miss your exit, do not try to cross multiple lanes quickly. Continue in the inside lane of the roundabout until you reach the exit again. Properly using a roundabout can protect you from collisions.