Ask a Trooper: How are circular intersections driven"
Question: On a recent trip we came across an intersection that was circular in design. I was not sure of what I was supposed to do but I did manage to get through it. Can you tell my why it was built like that? They appear to me to be more troublesome than regular intersections and that could cause more crashes.
Answer: These are called roundabouts and you will see more and more in the next few years. (As of 2007 inventory, some 47 roundabouts have been built, 24 were in construction, 20 were in design stage, and another 50 planned/being considered) Your concern about crashes is interesting and definitely reveals that you have never seen the traffic information available about them. I ask that you look at some information before you conclude roundabouts are more hazardous.
Studies by major research organizations have shown that roundabouts are much safer. Studies of roundabouts show that total crash numbers are reduced by 40 percent, while injury crashes are reduced by more than 70 percent, and fatalities are almost non-existent. Roundabouts are generally single lane, and traffic all moves in the same direction, with traffic flowing better.
In modern roundabouts, you have to yield to traffic already in the roundabout. (By definition, a modern roundabout has a yield sign.) Just watch for the signs before you enter. When you enter, you have to turn to the right and follow the lane until you get to the point where you want to turn off.
A very big safety factor to roundabouts is there are no left turns. We know that left turns have shown to be much more dangerous than right turns. A person southbound on road #A and wanting to continue southbound on #A (don't forget you must yield to traffic within the roundabout) would follow the lane to the right around the center circle until they get to the other side and then take the exit to their right. We also know that roundabouts are much safer for pedestrian traffic. Monitoring traffic has shown that roundabouts allow for a larger traffic volume to pass through the area in a given amount of time than do regular intersections with stop signs or red lights.
Roundabouts are a little different than what we are used to here in Minnesota, but motorists who use them will get used to them and come to appreciate them for what they are designed to do.
Anyone desiring more detailed information about roundabouts in Minnesota should contact their nearest Minnesota D.O.T. office or visit MnDOT's Web site by clicking onto http://www.dot.state.mn.us/roundabouts.
Obviously, roundabouts will not replace all intersections, but they are very good for large traffic volume roads that are not of interstate or freeway design.
Here are some simple tasks to help you avoid being in a crash: turn on your lights; drive sober; stop talking on the cell phone; slow down; and because not every driver out there is as careful as you, buckle up.
If you have any questions concerning traffic-related laws in Minnesota, send your questions to Trooper Andy Schmidt, Minnesota State Patrol, 1000 Highway 10 West, Detroit Lakes, MN 56501-2205. Or reach me at andrew.schmidt