Everywhere you look, you see roundabouts popping up everywhere in Kennewick and in Tri-Cities metropolitan area. If you’re like me, you’re probably wondering if these things really work. Because it doesn’t seem like the average driver knows how to drive through them.
Well, luckily for you, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has studied this and has concluded that roundabouts are way, way safer than the alternative stop signs. Apparently not knowing how to navigate a roundabout is not necessary for a 75% reduction in collisions that result in an injury, and a 90% reduction in collisions that result in a fatality at an intersection. Not only are they less dangerous, they are also more efficient and, according to impartial Mythbusters, allow 20% more traffic to flow through them.
Now that you know that roundabouts are much safer than stop signs (it’s kind of hard to “blow” a roundabout like you can a stop sign, and it’s hard to drive faster than the recommended 15 mph), I know what you really want to know is how you are supposed to yield to other drivers as you proceed through a roundabout. Thankfully, the Washington State Department of Transportation outlines the basic do’s and don’ts of navigating a roundabout:
- Do yield to drivers in the roundabout (once you see a gap in traffic, enter the circle and proceed to your exit)
- Do stay in your lane; do not change lanes
- Do not stop in the roundabout
- Do not drive next to oversize vehicles, which are allowed to straddle lanes in a roundabout
These rules can be hard to follow in mini-roundabouts, which have a central circle of 45 to 90 feet, and are often placed into already-existing intersections. The City of Kennewick has installed multiple mini roundabouts, most notably on Union Street (at 19th Avenue pictured below). Mini-roundabouts create at least three distinct hazards and should be avoided:
- The smaller the central circle, the less likely there will be a gap in traffic that allows for a safe entrance from the non-dominant street
- Oversize vehicles are frequently unable to navigate the roundabout without encroaching on the central circle or the outer curb, creating a potential for tipping
- The difficultly in navigating the traffic circle increases the likelihood that a vehicle will damage neighboring property
Now that you know roundabout basics, you can encourage the representatives of your cities and states to keep building them… as long as they aren’t putting a round peg into a square hole.