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How to negotiate a roundabout

The first roundabouts in the United States were built in Nevada in 1990. As their popularity increases, some people are confounded about who has the right of way. Not knowing the rules of negotiating a roundabout can cause car crashes.


The whole purpose of installing roundabouts, i.e., circular intersections, was to decrease traffic accidents. Based on a concept design in the United Kingdom from the 1960s, the U.S. roundabouts direct vehicles to drive counterclockwise around a center island, with entering traffic yielding the right-of-way to circulating traffic.


The slower speeds (in Wisconsin the speed limit is 15 mph), help the vehicle flow, with approaching drivers forced to reduce their speeds, look for on-coming traffic, and check for pedestrians and cyclists.


IIHS statistics point to the safety of roundabouts

Studies reported to the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) are evidence of the safety factors involved in roundabouts.


Studies of intersections in the United States converted from traffic signals or stop signs to roundabouts have found reductions in injury crashes of 72-80 percent and reductions in all crashes of 35-47 percent (Retting et al., 2001; Eisenman et al., 2004; Rodegerdts et al., 2007).A study of 19 higher-speed rural intersections (speed limits of 40 mph or higher) that originally had stop signs on the minor approaches and were converted to roundabouts found a 62 percent reduction in all crashes and an 85 percent reduction in injury crashes (Isebrands & Hallmark, 2012).Studies of intersections in Europe and Australia that were converted to roundabouts have reported 25-87 percent reductions in injury crashes and 36-61 percent reductions in all crashes (Rodegerdts et al., 2010).Based on the results of a 2004 study (Eisenman et al., 2004), it’s estimated that the conversion of 10 percent of the signalized intersections in the United States to roundabouts would have prevented approximately 48,000 crashes in 2017, including 232 fatal crashes and 33,000 crashes involving injuries.


In addition, the Federal Highway Commission notes a 78-82% decrease of serious car crashes when roundabouts are used instead of traditional intersections.


How to negotiate a roundabout

If you educate yourself on how to negotiate a roundabout, you can ensure that you and others will be safe when entering or exiting one.


  • Slow down to 10-15 mph on approach.

  • Because traffic flows counter-clockwise, you will always turn to the right to enter a roundabout.

  • Vehicles already in the roundabout circle have the right of way, so you must yield to them.

  • Follow your lane (if there are multiple lanes) and exit when you reach your desired street.

  • Roundabouts are constructed so that traffic can move smoothly. Therefore, don’t make any sudden stops when driving in one.

Roundabouts in Wisconsin

Roundabouts in Wisconsin are not very numerous – less than one percent of the intersections in the state highway system have them. Two hundred and twenty of them are on the state truck highway system and 162 on local highways. There may be more constructed in the future when new intersections are built since they improve traffic flow, and reduce the number of severe injury crashes.


If you are unfamiliar with how to negotiate a roundabout, learn the rules and you will do fine. Roundabouts may appear a bit intimidating at first, but are really quite simple to use.


If you have any questions about this topic or any other questions related to personal injury law, please call us at 920-725-8464, or toll free at 1-800-529-1552. Our personal injury consultations are always free.


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