Roundabouts are finally starting to gain ground in the United States, literally. And it’s about time since they have been a standard of road construction in Europe almost since the car was invented. Modern drivers ed programs, both online drivers ed and classroom instruction are now teaching how to maneuver a rounbabout. Interestingly, these road constructs can be very controversial and in some cases cause major political battles.
I first came across roundabouts while driving in England many years ago in a rental car. After having learned to drive in the U.S. and never really having to confront a roundabout while driving, it was an adventure to say the least. Not only were there roundabouts, but almost every intersection used a roundabout as the construct. In other words, roundabouts in England were ubiquitous and it was shocking to a rookie out of the States driver like me.
However, I have to admit that after a few days of negotiating roundabouts I found them to be fantastic at keeping the traffic flowing. These are much better than the traditional 2-way and 4-way stops we have in the U.S. Obviously, our drivers education needed to catch-up in order to make these as safe as in England, but overall they indeed are much safer.
A few statistics on roundabouts:
- Roundabouts result in a 13 – 23% reduction in delays compared to stop signs
- Roundabouts result in an 89% reduction in delays compared to stop lights
- Roundabouts result in a 30% reduction in fuel consumption
- Roundabouts result in fewer collisions with fewer injuries per collision
Let’s look at two examples of modern roundabouts right here in the United States:
Roundabout in Montpelier, Vermont
Roundabout in Okemos, Michigan
These are a couple of the growing number of roundabouts right here in the United States. Our drivers are slowly but surely getting used to these road constructs. Our drivers ed courses are beginning to provide instruction on roundabouts. And given the statistics on the superiority of roundabouts over stop signs and traffic lights it should be getting obvious these are the way of the future.
OK, hopefully I’ve managed to convince a few people that roundabouts are not evil things attacking our society. Those living in neighborhoods with roundabouts have survived and even thrived. I say the roundabout is a major improvement for our intersections and that we should replace stop signs and traffic lights wherever possible with roundabouts.