Road Rants: Rules of the road for roundabouts

Traffic

Each week our Road Rants report features a viewer’s question or commute concern.

Jennifer contacted 8 On Your Side to complain about drivers who don’t understand how to drive in roundabouts.

It’s understandable that many drivers in Florida are unfamiliar with roundabouts, which are different than older traffic cirlces. There are approximately 20 roundabouts operating on Florida’s state highway system and more than 300 roundabouts on local roads throughout the state. But, many more are being planned. The Florida Department of Transportation is actively promoting the installation of modern roundabouts throughout the state highway system due to their proven safety and operational benefits.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, studies of intersections in the United States converted from traffic signals or stop signs to roundabouts have found reductions in injury crashes of 72-80 percent and reductions in all crashes of 35-47 percent. A study of 19 higher-speed rural intersections (speed limits of 40 mph or higher) that originally had stop signs on the minor approaches and were converted to roundabouts found a 62 percent reduction in all crashes and an 85 percent reduction in injury crashes.

Other studies show modern roundabouts can reduce fatalities at intersections by up to 90 percent, and serious injury crashes by up to 76 percent.

Modern roundabouts are much smaller than older traffic circles, and require vehicles to negotiate a sharper curve to enter. These differences make travel speeds in roundabouts slower than speeds in traffic circles. Because of the higher speeds in older circles, many are equipped with traffic signals or stop signs to help reduce potential crashes. In addition, some older traffic circles and rotaries operate according to the traditional “yield-to-the-right” rule, with circulating traffic yielding to entering traffic.

Roundabouts promote safety in several ways. At traditional intersections with stop signs or traffic signals, some of the most common types of crashes are right-angle, left-turn, and head-on collisions. These types of collisions can be severe because vehicles may be traveling through the intersection at high speeds. With roundabouts, these types of potentially serious crashes essentially are eliminated because vehicles travel in the same direction and at low speeds — generally less than 20 mph in urban areas and less than 30-35 mph in rural areas.

The vehicle-to-vehicle conflicts that do occur at roundabouts generally involve a vehicle merging into the circular roadway. In the case of multilane roundabouts, conflicts may also occur as vehicles exit.

Here’s roundabout 101:

  • Use the left hand lane if you need to exit the roundabout more than halfway around, and the right lane if you’re exiting sooner. 
  • Yield to traffic as you enter the roundabout.
  • Stay in your lane until you exit.
  • Signal before you exit the roundabout.
  • If you miss your turn – no problem! Just keep going back around.
  • Always yeild to pedestrians and bicycles. 

You can find out more about FDOT’s plans for future roundabouts, locations of current roundabouts, and videos on modern roundabouts at this link.

Send your Road Rants questions or concerns to Meredyth Censullo at mcensullo@wfla.com or on Facebook at WFLAMeredyth.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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