A crash. Debris on the street. Ambulances, police cars. Widespread confusion. Traffic held up for hours.
Let’s face it—four-way intersections stink.
Massive intersections—a staple of the American commute—are a perfect recipe for fatal accidents. Vehicles scream through intersections at whatever speed they desire, and, as a result, deadly head-on collisions are commonplace.
Fortunately, we have a simple solution to this problem: roundabouts.
Already widely popular in Europe, roundabouts—which are eligible for 100% federal funding—lead to a 75% reduction in crashes in which one party is injured. A European study indicated that roundabouts are safer for pedestrians as well, with a 75% reduction in pedestrian collisions.
If all of this seems too good to be true, that’s because it is.
In addition to reducing crashes, roundabouts lead to an 89% reduction in vehicle delays. In other words, rush-hour commutes will be a lot less hectic. By keeping an even traffic flow, roundabouts reduce idling, leading to less air pollution. By eradicating idling, roundabouts reduce carbon dioxide emissions from our vehicles by about 25%.
For some, the time it takes to build a roundabout may be a point of contention. But, with today’s technology, roundabouts can be constructed in just ten days, and while the closure might be a short-term inconvenience, it will pay off in the long run.
Despite these unequivocal benefits, Americans are wary.
Many Americans don’t know how to use a roundabout, which is why we should increase driver education within our nation—but this is another discussion. And, as a The New York Times article discusses, emergency vehicles have difficulty navigating roundabouts. Many people argue that emergency vehicles shouldn’t have to slow down to go through a roundabout.
But do we really need to be worried about the incremental few seconds it will take an emergency vehicle to slow down, go through the roundabout, and speed back up again?
Also, let’s not pretend that emergency vehicles don’t get held up at four-way intersections. Yes, if the roads were completely empty, it would be easier for an ambulance, firetruck, or police car to navigate a road filled with four-way intersections. However, emergency calls generally occur when most of the population is awake, when roads are being used. So, does a roundabout really make a trip slower for an emergency vehicle? Probably not.
Implementing roundabouts within our communities is a no-brainer. From safer roads, to less congestion, to aiding the fight to reduce climate change, roundabouts provide many benefits that traditional intersections can not compete with.