After a few years of replacing more traditional traffic intersections with roundabouts throughout Pennsylvania, research suggests that roundabouts are safe alternatives for drivers and pedestrians. Recent studies show that roundabouts are actually reducing car accidents. Yet, many Pennsylvanians are still confused about how to navigate roundabouts.
A roundabout should not be confused with a traffic circle. Traffic circles tend to be larger than roundabouts and may even have stop signs or stop lights. Drivers in traffic circles are encouraged to switch lanes while operating at moderate speeds. Additionally, they may discover that the traffic circle surrounds a grassy piece of land. Traffic circles can be useful, but roundabouts seem to provide more meaningful accident reduction when installed along highly congested roads.
Roundabouts are smaller than traffic circles, and drivers have to enter them on slight curves. Drivers should not stop in or at a roundabout, but they must yield to all moving vehicles. Some roundabouts have single lanes and others contain two. Once in the roundabout, drivers should do their best to not switch lanes.
The midpoint of a roundabout may also have a slightly raised concrete island, but it is not usually decorated. It is actually a truck apron, allowing trucks to go onto the island if they have a particularly wide turning radius.
While in the roundabout, traffic slows to less than 30 miles per hour. Since roundabouts have no stop-and-go traffic flow, they can accommodate significant volumes of all types of traffic at once. The only exception are crosswalks which may or may not be integrated into the roundabout. If drivers come across crosswalks, they would need to pause for pedestrians or cyclists.
Generally, drivers should reduce their speeds when approaching roundabouts. Traffic always flows to the right in a roundabout, so drivers will need to look to their left upon entering. It is important to remember that cars and trucks in the roundabout have the right-of-way.
Once in the roundabout, drivers should keep their speeds low and avoid driving adjacent to large vehicles with wider turning radiuses. However, motorists should not try to pass trucks or other vehicles in roundabouts.
When drivers get to their preferred exits, they should indicate their intention to leave the roundabouts by activating their turn signals. When exiting the roundabout, they should stay at roughly the same speed.
Since the installation of roundabouts throughout Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) has collected quite a bit of statistical data. In September 2020, PennDOT released its information about 22 roundabout sites.
According to the data points, the 22 roundabouts reduced incidents of accidents, victim injuries, and deaths compared to data from before the roundabouts were installed. In fact, the roundabouts cut roadway fatalities by 100 percent and wrecks by 24 percent. In addition, serious injuries plummeted 78 percent and property damage fell by 20 percent.
PennDOT’s findings are similar to those released by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), which showed an 89 percent decrease in deadly crashes in places where roundabouts were placed. PennDOT has noted that 40 more roundabouts are being planned for busier roads around Pennsylvania.
Why do roundabouts seemingly decrease accidents and fatalities? A huge advantage to roundabouts is that they negate the possibility of right-angle and head-on crashes. Right-angle crashes and head-on collisions can cause significant injuries and can even cause fatalities.
Another benefit of roundabouts is that they reduce traffic jams while still allowing traffic to flow along areas that tend to become congested. Roundabouts even make crossing roads safer and easier for pedestrians.
Drivers play a huge part in the safety of roundabouts. They must follow several guidelines in order to ensure that they reduce the chances of causing accidents. All motorists should slow down and remain at constant speeds. However, motorists should avoid stopping unless it is absolutely necessary, such as a crossing cyclist.
While in a roundabout, drivers should also be prepared to choose the lane they need when entering. Switching lanes can lead to sideswipe accidents.
Drivers should remember to yield left since all roundabout traffic moves to the right. Most roundabouts have plenty of signs up to remind motorists of where to go, but newer drivers or drivers unaccustomed to roundabouts may still be confused.
A major exception to stopping in a roundabout is when an emergency vehicle is moving through. At that point, motorists should do as they normally would and make room for the emergency vehicle to pass.
Even though roundabouts are seemingly safe alternatives, accidents still happen. As with all accident scenes, drivers should move to safe locations, such as the shoulders of roundabouts. They should then call 911 and follow basic crash guidelines, including seeking medical attention, calling their insurance provider, collecting evidence, and speaking to a lawyer.
Roundabout accidents can cause serious injuries. If a motorist, passenger, or pedestrian is involved in a roundabout car accident that leads to significant injuries, they should contact a lawyer. An attorney will help a victim file a personal injury claim so that they receive sufficient compensation.
Although roundabouts decrease accidents, collisions can still occur. If you were hurt in a recent car accident, contact our Pittsburgh car accident lawyers at AlpernSchubert P.C. today. We can help you with your claim. Call us at 412-765-1888 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Pittsburgh, we proudly defend car accident victims throughout western Pennsylvania, including Allegheny County, Lawrence County, and Washington County.