Are Roundabouts Safer Than Intersections?

Research shows that approximately 50% of traffic collisions occur somewhere near or at intersections, so what makes roundabouts any safer? Although roundabouts are a type of intersection, they are significantly safer than other intersections, resulting in a 47% reduction in the risk of injury accidents overall. Carry on reading to learn about the benefits and challenges of roundabouts. 

Roundabout Safety Benefits

Slower Speed 

While motorists do not have to stop and wait while traveling through a circular intersection, they are forced to slow down due to the circular design. Typically the speed of vehicles in a roundabout can be around 20 miles per hour or less.  

Roundabouts are designed to keep the traffic moving in a counterclockwise direction, without any abrupt stops. This prevents motorists from speeding up, reducing the risk of dangerous collisions. In addition to a slower speed, there is less vehicle idling, helping minimize the carbon footprint of combustion engine vehicles. 

One-Way Travel 

At signal intersections, drivers can be coming from multiple directions, which increases the risk of traffic collisions. At roundabouts, each vehicle that enters the intersection has to travel around the central island counterclockwise. Since the roadways entering the roundabout are curved, causing all vehicles to travel in the same direction and at a slow speed, congestion can be prevented. 

Unlike other intersections, vehicles do not have to stop for a long time; instead, they yield to the existing traffic and then enter the roundabout when they can find space. Vehicles from all sides of the roundabout can also enter the roundabout if there is no traffic. 

Fewer Conflict Points

At roundabouts, there are inherently fewer conflict points, which refer to potential areas on the road where two or more vehicles can be at risk of colliding with each other. There are several conflict points at a regular intersection, while there are only a few at a roundabout. This dramatically reduces the risk of traffic accidents. Furthermore, even if accidents occur at a roundabout, the severity of the crash would be reduced due to the angle of impact and lower speed.   

Safer for All Road Users

Generally, regular intersections have a larger crossing distance for pedestrians, combined with the possibility of speeding motorists from different directions, leading to serious pedestrian accidents. However, there is a shorter crossing distance at roundabouts, and all vehicles entering the roundabout slow down, giving pedestrians plenty of time to cross the road safely and making roundabouts safer for bicyclists and pedestrians. Pedestrians also have the benefit of only having to worry about traffic coming from one direction, which gives them more time to accurately judge the roadway conditions before crossing.  

Roundabout Safety Challenges 

While roundabouts are a lot safer than intersections, accidents can still occur. Even with traffic signs at each entryway of the roundabout indicating that drivers should slow down, some negligent motorists can try to cut the distance short at a roundabout by turning opposite to the traffic flow, endangering pedestrians, bicyclists, and other vehicles. Victims of a roundabout accident can hire an attorney from a car accident law firm to get guidance on how to proceed with an insurance claim or lawsuit. 

Despite the safety benefits of a roundabout, some conditions can make it challenging for motorists to drive through. For example, serious collisions may not occur at roundabouts due to slower vehicle speeds. Still, if traffic gets crowded, the gaps between the vehicles can become smaller, resulting in long lines at entry points, low-speed fender benders, and rear-end collisions. 

Drivers not fully aware of the safety protocols of a roundabout may get confused about who has the right of way while entering and exiting the circular intersection, making it challenging for other motorists and road users to safely cross the roundabout.  

Circular intersections can also take up more space than regular intersections, which is why they usually have narrow shoulders. These undefined shoulders could increase the risks of pedestrian and bicyclist accidents. Roundabouts can also be dangerous during inclement weather or poor road conditions. 

There can also be many merging points at roundabouts that make it confusing for inexperienced motorists to understand the traffic pattern of the circular intersection. This could lead to vehicles being run off the road, getting sideswiped, or crashing into the central island. 

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