Depending on numerous factors, a motor vehicle collision can cause catastrophic injuries. From head-on and side-impact collisions to the more common rear-end crashes, drivers and other vehicle occupants can suffer broken bones, head trauma, spinal cord damage and amputation based on the types of vehicles involved and the speeds at which they were traveling. Fortunately, road design has seen improvements in the last few decades. But is it enough?
For high-speed intersections or those with a significant incidence of collisions, using roundabouts in favor of traditional four-way stops can reduce the potential for serious crashes. While some areas are slow to adopt this type of road design, studies have historically shown a reduction in collisions. One study in particular estimates that the conversion of 10% of the signal intersections in the United States to roundabouts would have prevented approximately 51,000 crashes in 2018.
There are numerous features of a roundabout that can improve traffic safety, including:
- Appropriate warning signs: As with any upcoming traffic change, proper signage is essential. From speed limits to yield signs, drivers should be warned in advance of the intersection.
- Landscaping: From reducing the height of perimeter landscaping to improve visibility to using center-island landscaping to reduce overall speeds, designers can use the surrounding foliage as a safety tool.
- Splitter islands: While roundabouts follow general design parameters, engineers can add islands that separate the approach and exit lanes to reduce the chance of collision.
- Road curvature: While many roundabouts are designed with that function in mind, many others are simply additions to existing four-way intersections. If engineers design the roundabout with adequate road curvature leading to the approach, the alignment of these lanes can also aid in reducing speeds.
Numerous studies in the United States and abroad show a statistical benefit to the use of properly designed roundabouts. From reducing the speed of all vehicles passing through the intersection to reducing the possibility of deadly head-on collisions, roundabouts offer drivers and vehicle occupants a safer trip through even a complicated intersection.