Roundabouts — how safe are they?

| Nov 23, 2020 | Motor Vehicle Accidents |

When compared to traditional intersection accident numbers, the statistics show that fewer vehicle crashes occur in roundabouts. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, when compared to regular intersections, roundabouts reduce serious vehicle crashes by more than 70%. 

Overall, accidents at all types of intersections combined reflect about 25% of U.S. roadway deaths. When you encounter a roundabout as a motorist, bicyclist or pedestrian, however, you face a much lesser chance of becoming involved in a fatal accident. 

Why are roundabouts safer?

Several factors contribute to the increased safety of roundabouts. As noted by WKSU 89.7 Public Radio News, you may find 32 spots in a traditional intersection where a collision might occur, referred to as “conflict spots.” A roundabout reduces the number to eight. You also typically enter a roundabout at a much slower speed than you would when you come to a green light at a traditional intersection. 

Another significant characteristic of roundabouts is that traffic only moves in a counterclockwise direction. This limits you to making right-hand turns. If an accident occurs, you have a greater chance of it taking the form of a low-speed side-swipe or rear-end hit rather than a severe head-on crash or T-Bone collision. 

Do roundabouts have any drawbacks?

From a maintenance point-of-view, roundabouts present some roadwork challenges, especially for a flagman directing traffic away from a road crew. They may also confuse some drivers who experience them for the first time. 

Serious injuries from collisions and other roadway accidents may, however, occur in spite of the degree of consideration given to safety when designing and building intersections. Overall, driver attentiveness and distraction avoidance remain critical factors in avoiding accidents. 

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