The 1960s saw roundabouts developed in the United Kingdom. Countless other countries took notice and began adding the circular intersection now known as safer than traffic lights and stop signs. The design itself is a tight circle that gives drivers no choice but to slow down.
Modern roundabouts showed up first in Nevada in 1990. Initially, states and cities seemed reluctant to construct traffic circles. Their growth in popularity has made them one of 20 evidence-based safety countermeasures recommended by the Federal Highway Administration.
A safer alternative?
The first modern roundabouts in the United States were constructed in Nevada in 1990. Since then, many states, including New York and Virginia, have codified “roundabout first” policies, particularly for newly built intersections and those requiring significant upgrades.
Protecting pedestrians is a significant perk with short crossing distances while vehicles pass by at lower speeds. Due to the reduced idling that minimizes emissions and fuel use, roundabouts are considered to be more friendly to the environment.
In the United States, motor vehicles move counterclockwise at slower speeds to facilitate smooth travel entering, traveling, and exiting the roundabout. Average speeds are 10 to 20 miles per hour. Drivers have no choice but to reduce speeds while keeping an eye out for nearby pedestrians and bicycle riders.
Rural and older roundabouts – known as rotaries – are predecessors to modern traffic circles. They allow for higher speeds of up to 35 mph. Vehicles move at higher rates, with many having traffic signals or stop signs to minimize possible collisions. The traffic circles and rotaries also abide by the “yield-to-the-right” rule, with traffic already circulating and yielding to entering vehicles.
Domestically, roundabouts are here to stay. While considered safer, negligent drivers can still travel through them recklessly, resulting in accidents that injure and kill innocent victims.