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Roundabouts don’t have to be scary

Though there are no roundabouts in Northeast Michigan, many people ask about them, as they are popping up all over the state now.

The question is, “How do we properly drive in a traffic circle/roundabout?”

While doing the research, I found there are roundabouts, and then there are traffic circles, and the two are often confused by people.

Roundabouts are circular intersections where entering traffic yields to vehicles traveling counterclockwise around a central island.

Vehicles entering from each leg of the intersection must yield to traffic approaching from the left. That includes any bicyclists or pedestrians who are present.

Vehicles exit the roundabout by making a right turn onto the desired road.

Traffic circles, meanwhile, are a type of intersection that directs both turning and through traffic onto a one-way, circular roadway, usually built for the purposes of controlling and calming the flow of traffic.

As drivers approach roundabouts, they should start looking for roadside signs and pavement markings for directions into the correct lanes. Motorists should slow down, safely approach the yield line, looking to the left before entering.

Motorists should stay to the right of the center island in all roundabouts. When the time is appropriate and there is a gap in traffic, the driver should enter the roundabout and merge with the flow of traffic.

At no time should a motorist ever make a left turn to enter a roundabout. That would place you in front of oncoming traffic.

As motorists travel the roundabout, they should again always be to the right of the center island, and remember vehicles already in the roundabout have the right-of-way.

Stopping in the middle of a roundabout would likely cause a collision or other danger to all motorists, so, if you miss your exit, travel the circle again, and then make your exit.

Avoid changing lanes in the roundabout. Try to move to your lane prior to entering the roundabout.

Give special consideration to trucks, trailers, and other, larger vehicles by avoiding driving next to the larger vehicles, as it may take more than one lane to navigate through the roundabout.

In the event of an emergency vehicle approaching, when you hear the siren or observe the lights near the roundabout, do not stop, continue driving, and leave the roundabout at the nearest exit. Pull over to the right-hand shoulder and wait, allowing the emergency vehicle to pass you, if needed.

When exiting a roundabout, maintain a slow speed and always indicate your exit by using your turn signal. Always check the pedestrian crossing before exiting, and entering, to be sure it is clear.

Many people comment to me that roundabouts are confusing and difficult to get through. In comparison to a normal, four-direction intersection, they are actually easier to navigate. Traffic is only coming from one direction, the right, not possibly from all four directions. Because traffic flows in a counterclockwise manner, there should never be traffic coming from any other direction. Roundabouts help to control the speed of vehicles, and often eliminate head-on or left-turn collisions, which frequently result in serious injuries.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, roundabouts can provide lasting benefits and value in many ways. They are often safer, more efficient, less costly, and more aesthetically appealing than conventional intersection designs. Furthermore, roundabouts are an excellent choice to complement other transportation without compromising the ability to keep people and freight moving through our towns, cities and regions, and across the nation.

Most significantly, roundabouts REDUCE the types of crashes where people are seriously hurt or killed by 78% to 82%, when compared to conventional stop-controlled and signalized intersections, per the AASHTO Highway Safety Manual.

Thanks to the FHWA, a video was created at the below link to help people familiarize themselves with the way roundabouts function. Please view the video at this link: https://youtu.be/uhHzly–6lWM .

Overall, there is nothing to fear regarding roundabouts.

Just remember, when you enter the roundabout, turn right, and drive in a circle until you get to your exit.

Ashley Simpson is a Community Service Trooper for the Michigan State-Police Alpena Post. If you have a question for Trooper Simpson, you can email her at asktroopersimpson@gmail.com or mail them to Ask A Trooper, MSP-Alpena Post, 3283 W. Washington Ave., Alpena, Michigan, 49707.

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