Since the first time I drove through a roundabout in England many years ago I thought “what a wonderful traffic mechanism”. At that time the U.S. hadn’t really caught on to roundabouts and consequently driving schools were not teaching their use. In the U.S. we had a few “traffic circles”, which I learned are quite different from roundabouts. Given the trends toward the use of roundabouts, its time to discuss a bit of history and stress the importance of driving lessons covering their usage.
First off, a little history and a few interesting tidbits on roundabouts. The first British roundabout was built in 1909 and their use grew rapidly. Their use also took off in France, where roughly one-half of the world’s roundabouts exist. Drivers in Europe and the U.K. are quite used to roundabouts and driving schools have incorporated them into their lessons many decades ago. Roundabouts should not be confused with traffic circles, which are designed for high-speed traffic. Driving School Amsterdam
It is very interesting to understand the safety implications of roundabouts, which are dramatic. Driving lessons should discuss the fact that roundabouts have 40% fewer crashes, 80% fewer injuries, and 90% fewer serious injuries and fatalities than traditional traffic junctions. This is according to a study done by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. It has taken the U.S. a long time to catch on to roundabouts, but they are now gaining momentum and better driving schools will spend some time really discussing properly navigating these junctions.
Another interesting item about roundabouts is that under many conditions they produce less traffic delays than a typical traffic junction. However, at any intersection where traffic isn’t required to stop, roundabouts can actually add a delay. Given that roundabouts are becoming popular, a good drivers ed program should also spend time discussing the various scenarios and what types of delays can be expected in these scenarios.
The acceptance of roundabouts in the U.S. is another interesting item and provides a great window into the understanding people’s resistance to change. Surveys have shown that public opinion prior to construction may be as high as 68% opposed to the roundabout which changes to 73% in favor once the roundabout is actively in use. This is an amazing statistic and really points out that even though there are potential major benefits from a roundabout, there is much resistance to its acceptance. This is an area where a modern driving school can help substantially by getting their students familiar with roundabouts and when possible making sure they actually utilize one in their driving lessons.
Well, there you have it – a brief history of roundabouts. As they become more prominent in the U.S. it becomes more important to include them as part of our students’ drivers ed. And it also wouldn’t hurt for a bit of parent education as well since it appears that roundabouts are here to stay. Given both the reduction in delays and crashes, roundabouts are a welcome road junction that hopefully over time becomes the predominant manner of connecting two roads together.