Tuesday, February 11, 2014

His Living in America: Roundabouts

Roundabouts are used in many areas in Australia.
As I was driven around on my first trip in America I noticed a lot of differences when it came to traveling by car. Some were quite obvious like being on the other side of the road and car (don't ask how many times I tried to get in the wrong side of the car) but others were not so obvious for a while. After a while I did notice one thing that was missing on American roads that most Aussies use every day and that was the roundabout. 

Even large trucks can navigate a roundabout.
In many towns and cities across Australia, roundabouts are used in place of traffic signals or stop signs to keep traffic flowing and to assist traffic on the side streets to get through an intersection quickly. In most cases you could get through a roundabout pretty quickly and if volume was light you go through the roundabout without having to come to a stop. Using a roundabout was pretty simple as you yielded to the traffic that was already using the roundabout and you entered when there was a safe gap. Since you yielded to the traffic in the roundabout and they are all going in the same direction you only have to look in one direction which makes things pretty easy. Roundabouts are used both on suburban streets and highways and even the major highways so you don't have to travel far before you find one.

       Roundabouts are also known as "traffic circles" in America and are not nearly as common. Many localities have very few if any at all. Roundabouts in America are normally in quiet residential streets where there isn't a lot of traffic and it is unusual to see them on a busy road. It is far more common to see either a 4 way stop sign (I wrote about them here) or a traffic signal. It seems that in the last few years more and more roundabouts have been popping up but there are still pretty much a novelty in a lot of places.

Roundabout in Narrabri, NSW
      So why are roundabouts not so common in America? I believe it is because a lot of Americans are not familiar with them and installing a bunch of them would cause a ton of accidents and increased insurance rates for everyone. Australia started installing roundabouts back in the 1980's and they had to spend a ton of money on TV ads to try and educate people on how to use them. It took a while for the Aussies to get used to them and they had a lot less people to train as well (16 million back then compared to the 300+ million in the U.S today). There are many intersections in Virginia that I would think would benefit from a roundabout but it would take a long time for people to get used to them. Maybe one day America will catch onto the roundabout craze like Australia did 30 years ago but I am not holding my breath.

    I am a huge fan of roundabouts as I feel that they keep traffic flowing smoother than traffic lights at many intersections. Do you agree or would you like to see them ripped up and replaced with a stop sign or traffic signal?


1 comment:

  1. The area I just moved from in Utah had numerous roundabouts and the residents could never get it into their heads how to use them. You basically took your life in your hands whenever you entered one.


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