We usually think of roundabouts as a feature of European roadways. However, the four-way stop that once was popular among American traffic engineers may become a thing of the past. Today’s engineers favor the roundabout because it reduces congestion and keeps traffic moving – safely.
Even though roundabouts have not been as popular in the United States as they are in Europe, the concept was invented in the U.S. around 1900 and is now growing in popularity on this side of the Atlantic. There are now about 5,000 roundabouts in the country and many more in the planning stages, according to a former official at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
In New York State, the number of roundabouts has grown significantly. In 2005, there were 18. Today, there are 112. New Jersey has begun replacing traffic circles, which have stoplights, with roundabouts. The goal in both states is to improve pedestrian and traffic safety.
Why the switch to roundabouts? They are safer, reducing crashes by up to 82 percent when compared to a two way stop. Intersections with traffic lights see crashes reduced by 78 percent when the lights are replaced by roundabouts.
Why are they safer? Drivers cannot speed across a street and hit another vehicle or a pedestrian. Rather, they have to slow down and merge with traffic already in the roundabout. There is no need to make a left turn, something that is both difficult and dangerous at a congested intersection.
In New York State, the number of roundabouts has grown significantly. In 2005, there were 18. Today, there are 112. New Jersey has begun replacing traffic circles, which have stoplights, with roundabouts.
New York City is getting is very first roundabout soon. A three-way intersection in the Bronx at Intervale Avenue and Dawson Street that has been the scene of numerous vehicle-pedestrian accidents is being converted to a roundabout.
Not everyone is thrilled about roundabouts. Because they are relatively new in most areas, many drivers find them difficult. Still, they have been shown to both keep traffic moving and reduce motor vehicle accidents. What’s not to like?