'What We Really Need to Make Roads Safer for Everyone'

I’ve driven through several roundabouts but traffic has always been light except the one on St Charles in New Orleans. New Orleans is not a place for the timid to drive and the place to visit for most would be the French Quarter and it’s likely that coming or going or both the St Charles roundabout or Circle as I believe they call it will need to be driven around and it’s unlikely that there is a “slow” time for traffic there. I seem to recall there is a fire station exiting on that roundabout but who can pay attention to anything but the bumpers a few inches away in every direction.

A Dutch traffic engineer proposed that measures that made drivers pay attention made the roads safer than traffic lights and stop signs. They let him try it in 1 town, found that it worked, expanded it. Maybe this works only in Netherlands, maybe it will end up not-working over the long run.

We’ve added traffic circles in Albuquerque, mostly on lightly-trafficked roads with low speed limits. They seem to work, though I haven’t looked at the numbers. Lots of people complained; some went the wrong way; some drove over them, but we seem to have learned.

When we moved to DC in 1960 Mother got stuck in one of its notorious multi-lane traffic circles, afraid to leave the outer lane. It was the only time I heard her curse.

Now that’s a fairy tale.


LOL, that doesn’t sound to me like they worked very well!
Were people driving like that at that intersection BEFORE the traffic circles were added?

When I taught my daughter to drive, I made a point to take her to a rotary and teach her how to drive through it safely. They’re extremely confusing to new drivers.

While the vast majority of drivers tend to size up new situations and deal with them reasonably there’s always that percentage of jerks who feel put upon at the least inconvenience and dealing with a new situation for them is very inconvenient. But I won’t tell my opinion of congested urban streets that are poorly marked and offer no U-turn for many blocks past a missed turn. I have ignored the no U-turn sign on a few occasions when traffic would easily allow it.

It takes time for people to learn; some people rebel. Eventually they stopped.

I don’t know the stats are in, but I suspect they have made intersections safer because you see what drivers intend. Lots of Albuquerqueños don’t signal their turns: a traffic circle forces them to show what they are doing, as long as they don’t cut the corner, which is more obvious when there’s a circle.

I didn’t start driving until after we moved to DC, so I grew up with them, didn’t find them confusing. DC’s are historic and scenic: I liked them for that, even if they could be a pain in traffic - but DC traffic is a pain in every intersection.

I hate them , never clear who has the right of way when you get into them . At least with intersections you know .

At least perpendicular intersections with stop signs require someone to stop and look. Rotaries tend to be free-for-alls. Granted, some people run stop signs, but my feeling is that they’re probably even more dangerous going around roundabouts or rotaries. People who don’t bother to stop for stop signs are probably unlikely to give other drivers their right of way at rotaries or roundabouts.

There’s a roundabout in Tulsa that I’ve been through several times with a number of roadways and a large, busy parking lot to access it.

Life in my hands each time I went through so I’ve taken the easy way out and avoid it altogether. As mountainbike mentions, it’s a free for all.

The round-a-bouts / rotaries near me (I don’t know what they are… they’re round “intersections”) have yield or stop signs. Even I can figure out what’s going on. Plus, the drivers are very courteous and helpful. I’m kind of getting accustomed to them. They’re not too bad, but as I’ve already said, they are in fairly rural light traffic areas. I guess not all of them are created “equal.” I love it here! It just keeps on getting better!
CSA :palm_tree::sunglasses::palm_tree:

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I seem to recall reading years ago that the small ones are “roundabouts” and the larger ones are called “rotaries”. But I wouldn’t swear to that definition. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

I had pretty good luck driving on the round-a-bouts in New Zealand, once I got used to the idea. Found them to be very easy to use and safe, even the ones in the larger cities, so they should work in the USA just as well. The versions I’ve seen here however aren’t properly designed. In fact I’ve never seen a single instance of a properly designed round about here. The circle needs to have a much larger diameter. I expect that’s the problem for traffic designer in the USA, not enough room to shoe-horn in a round-a-bout when the intersection was originally designed for the typical 90 degree cross streets.

I dunno, I think Mike said that they work OK for low volume but not so good for high volume. So for low volume intersections, what’s wrong with an intersection? A couple cheap stop or yield signs instead of the large curbed and landscaped circles that trucks have a hard time with? Just wondering is all what’s so great? I remember heading out at night on a road I hadn’t been on in a couple years going 60 or so, and all of a sudden there was a new round-about. No lights, nothing. If I hadn’t been paying attention I would have run right over it.

Like other occupations though, DOT engineers have the national and international conventions and workshops where people love to give sessions on all the good things they’ve done for transportation. They get all the engineers worked up and come home to try and implement all those “good” ideas.

The ones I’ve seen are pretty simple. Every entrance to the roundabout has a yield sign, so if you’re in the circle, you have the right of way.


As in so many driving situations problems occur when aggressive drivers and timid drivers are forced into a confined space. The timid drivers can’t make up there mind where they should go or will go and the aggressive drivers don’t care which way they go as long as they get moving.


Bing, I wholeheartedly agree.
Rotaries and roudabouts are, IMHO, a lot of good taxpayer money spent to nobody’s benefit.

There is no right-of-way, as discussed elsewhere in these fora.

People don’t stop and they don’t signal, at least not in Albuquerque. The driver who ignores the stop sign usually notices the circle and goes around, making collisions less likely. The driver who anticipates other drivers obeying stop signs (the naïfs!) no longer anticipates that.

The non-signaler ignorer-of-traffic who would turn left into anyone who’s in his/her way is more visible and easier to avoid.

Traffic circles aren’t new: DC has had them since its beginning.

The rules are simple: those in the circle have priority over those outside the circle.

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Are the French superior to US? The Charles deGaulle roundabout has 12 streets joining it and has been around since horse and buggy days.

obviously I picked up the wrong link but that one is funnier

hopefully this is Paris

Hee hee. Yeah nothing a stop light wouldn’t fix.

I agree with you about D.C. traffic, and it has only gotten worse. I also started driving in DC, at least every Sunday. We had to negotiate several circles to get to church. It wasn’t too hard to get used to.

Maryland recently started placing circles on the road over a limited access highway. The circles digest traffic getting off or going onto the highway and merge them into the road over the highway. These are often an adventure. One in particular requires me to go 3/4 of the way around to get onto the highway. I’m never quite sure whether I’m going to get hit by someone coming from the opposite direction since I have to leave the inside lane and move to the outside to exit. So far no one has been aggressive enough to ignore me. The driver in the circle first has the right of way.

I’m sorry to hear that.