Somersett residents may kid about the “dizzying’’ number of roundabouts in the community – six! –  but the truth is, roundabouts are much safer, more efficient and more aesthetically appealing than conventional stop sign or signal intersection designs.

Why are they safer? Roundabouts have far fewer potential vehicle points of conflict as compared to conventional intersections (see this diagram from the National Cooperative Highway Research Program). Also, the circular traffic pattern forces motorists to slow down, so potential crashes happen at lower speeds and at less-dangerous angles. According to the AASHTO Highway Safety Manual, roundabouts reduce the types of crashes where people are seriously hurt or killed by 78-82% when compared to conventional intersections.

Other benefits to roundabouts

More efficient. In a roundabout, traffic is always moving and not queued up at a stop sign or stopped waiting for a light to turn green. According to the Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT), several Insurance Institute for Highway Safety studies report significantly-improved traffic flow when traditional intersections are converted to roundabouts. A study of three such intersections in Nevada, Kansas and Maryland found that traffic delays were reduced 13-23 percent using roundabouts. Similar studies have shown a reduction of up to 89 percent in vehicle delays in roundabouts.

More environmentally friendly. Because cars are not stopped, gasoline use and exhaust harmful emissions are both reduced. And, by eliminating traffic stop and start situations, roundabouts can also reduce the associated noise pollution.

Vehicle speed reduction. Although some motorists still accelerate excessively between Somersett’s roundabouts, they are forced to slow down periodically to navigate the circles, thus reducing overall speed.

Better-looking. Roundabouts are more aesthetically pleasing than intersections with stop signs or traffic signals.  The center circle of Somersett’s roundabouts are attractively landscaped and this time of year, bedecked in beautiful holiday lights.

So, the next time you are circling, think about how fortunate you are to live in a community with such  attractive safety features – and no stoplights!

Read more:
Here is an excellent guide to navigating roundabouts from NDOT